Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Exclusive: 2017 Goes Down as Worst in Gaza Unemployment

Exclusive: 2017 Goes Down as Worst in Gaza Unemployment

Tuesday, 9 January, 2018 - 09:45
Palestinians inspect a building under construction in Gaza. (Reuters)

Khodr Ayesh serves long watch hours at the bottom of one of Gaza’s high-rise towers while serving affluent families living in the residence. Despite the paining long work hours, he is on a low payroll that does not even come close to stacking his home’s pantry or settling big bills.

Ayesh, 41, runs a 7:00 am to 7:00 pm shift for the low rate of 750 shekels ($200) a month which against skyrocketing prices, cannot make ends meet. His only solace in working long hours on low income is being able to provide, although a little, to his family.

Father to six children, among which is Ahmed who goes to the Faculty of Arts at the Islamic University in Gaza, Ayesh noted that he had to borrow from some relatives to save money for his son’s education.

Sending Ahmed to a four-year program at university came after a huge debt which Ayesh said he does not know how to repay.

Better off than many workers and citizens in the Gaza Strip, Ayesh is lucky to be employed with hundreds of thousands of workers and citizens living with unemployment and below the poverty line.

Ayesh hopes that 2018 bears better conditions for Gaza’s citizens, noting that in 2017, the city suffered unbearable and worsening economic circumstances.

Gaza’s humanitarian decline is due to ongoing stringent political conditions caused by Israeli forces and the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation—which was said to positively affect the lives of suffering Palestinians.

The reconciliation was expected to open up a host of future employment opportunities.

Abu Salem, 37, said he has long been looking for a job with a large construction contractor, hoping to earn some money to help provide his family house with nothing more than the basics his wife and children need.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that there has been a massive slowdown in construction activity inside the Gaza Strip given the Israeli blockage on cement and building material. Add to that, citizens struck with frustrating poverty are unable to build their homes.

He explained that he worked with a contractor up until June-- soon after, the contractor went out of business due to a lack in demand. More than 30 workers, supporting families of no less than four members, were laid off as a result.

Abu Salem pointed out that during good business months, he would get paid between 1,400 and 1,600 shekels per month (about $450 dollars). But he mentioned periods were he would only work 10 days a month.

He too, like Ayesh, expressed hopes that 2018 would be better for him and all the workers and that economic conditions would improve.

Ashraf Sami, 27, said he is looking for a job in a factory or in any profession so he could help around with house expenses.

Sami said his father has been unemployed since 2000 when Israel banned Palestinian workers from crossing the Green Line.

The Green Line, or pre-1967 border, was set out in the 1949 Armistice Agreements between the armies of Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. It served as the de facto Israeli borders from 1949 until the six-day war.

Sami denied that the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation had improved conditions for the youth even slightly, noting that, now more than ever, workers and young graduates face an unknown future.

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