Gaza unemployment since start of Israel’s war soars to nearly 80%: ILO

International Labour Organization says joblessness in occupied West Bank stands at almost 32 percent, resulting in a combined total of more than 50 percent.

Unemployment in the Gaza Strip has hit a “staggering” 79.1 percent since Israel launched its military onslaught on the besieged and bombarded territory in October last year, according to the United Nations labour agency.

In its latest assessment of the impact of the war on employment, the International Labour Organization (ILO) also said on Friday that joblessness in the occupied West Bank, which has also been hit by the crisis, had also reached nearly 32 percent.

This brings the average unemployment rate across the occupied Palestinian territory to 50.8 percent.

The figures, however, do not include those who have exited the labour force altogether amid worsening job prospects, the ILO said, warning that the actual numbers were higher.

“This excludes Palestinians who have given up on finding a job,” said Ruba Jaradat, ILO regional director for Arab States. “The situation is much worse”.

Israeli attacks on Gaza since the start of the war have killed at least 36,654 people and wounded 83,309, with thousands more missing under the rubble and presumed dead, according to Palestinian health officials.

Israel launched its assault after Palestinian group Hamas led an attack in southern Israel on October 7 that killed about 1,140 people, according to Israeli tallies.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, the Palestinian toll in Israeli attacks over the same period includes more than 530 killed and some 5,200 wounded.

In terms of the economy, the real gross domestic product (GDP) has contracted by nearly 33 percent in the Palestinian territory since the start of the war, with an estimated contraction of 83.5 percent in the Gaza Strip, where about half of its 2.3 million people lived below the poverty line even before the war.

“Imagine with this very high level of unemployment, people will not be able to secure food for themselves and for their families,” Jaradat said.

“This is also impacting their health … Even if they have money, there are no hospitals that can accommodate the catastrophic situation there.”

In the West Bank, the GDP drop was 22.7 percent, the ILO data showed.

“In the occupied Palestinian territory and particularly in the West Bank, the reduction in incomes has pushed many families into severe poverty,” Jaradat said.

‘Israel systematically undermining Palestinian economy’

Mohammed Hamdan, an owner of a cafe in the heart of Ramallah, said he was afraid he would be forced to shut down his business.

“We haven’t been able to pay the rent since the war started and have cheques bouncing back,” he told Al Jazeera. “We have so much debt to our service providers.”

Palestinian workers in Israel, who were estimated at 22 percent of the workforce before the war, used to bring much needed cash to the West Bank. With Israel now having banned their entry, they barely make up 2.3 percent, according to a recent ILO survey.

Another obstacle facing the economy is Israel’s decision to withhold tax revenue that belongs to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA), which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank. As a result, the PA has been struggling to pay its employees their salaries in full, hindering the economic cycle even more.

“Israel has been systematically undermining the Palestinian economy for decades by controlling the Palestinian resources and lands,” economist Hind Batta told Al Jazeera.

“It created a weak economy dependent on Israel and withheld the PA’s money to minimise its role in dealing with the crisis.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies