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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
24 July 2008
More Than Half of Gaza Households Slump Below the Poverty Line;
Youth Hardest Hit by Unemployment

Jerusalem, 24th July, 2008: The number of households in Gaza below the poverty line has reached an unprecedented high of nearly 52 per cent, according to a new report by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). In its report published today UNRWA says that “the number of households in Gaza below the consumption poverty line continued to grow, reaching 51.8 per cent in 2007, despite significant amounts of emergency and humanitarian assistance”. By contrast, household poverty levels in the West Bank fell to just over 19 per cent, “likely driven down by the lifting of the international embargo on the Palestinian Authority”.

The UNRWA report, which is based on figures provided by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), says that “the real average unemployment rate in the occupied Palestinian territory (as a whole) remained amongst the highest in the world at 29.5 percent. When adjusted to account for the sharp increase in absentee workers in Gaza during the second half of the year, joblessness in Gaza between July and December 2007 reached an unprecedented high of 45.3 per cent”, while the figure in the West Bank was 25.5 per cent, around double the average unemployment for the Middle East and North Africa region.

The report says that “in both the West Bank and Gaza, the youth segment of the labour force (15 to 24 year olds) was the least likely to gain employment and the most prone to increased unemployment”. “If you deprive young people of an economic future, you deprive them of hope and when hope vanishes, what is left? How better to prevent despair and economic misery taking hold of a whole generation than to re-open Gaza’s borders?” said UNRWA Spokesman, Christopher Gunness.

According to the PCBS data, in the Hamas-run Gaza strip, the public sector continued to add jobs, including through the job creation programmes instituted by the Hamas administration, accounting for a quarter of job growth in 2007.

Looking to the future, the report concludes that “more troubling for the medium and long run, has been the low level of investment spending in both the public and private sectors”. In addition, the report says “Israeli imposed movement restrictions in the occupied Palestinian territory, whose population is estimated to have grown by about one third since 1999, have resulted in considerable regression over the past eight years and remain the main barrier to economic recovery and development”.

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For more information and interview requests, please contact Christopher Gunness on 0542 402 659,
or +0972 542 402 659.
For copies of the report, contact Chareen Fahmi on 0542 402 672.

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