Unemployment rates in Gaza and the West Bank have remained high since 2000, with few signs of significant improvement. Gaza consistently faces higher rates, and youth unemployment in both territories is a persistent concern. As it stands, women often more affected than men. Recently, efforts have been made to address youth unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank. These efforts are centered around either providing training to improve individuals’ abilities to obtain employment or improving the region’s job market.
The State of Unemployment
Overall, unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank has fluctuated since 2000, remaining high. As low as 14.3 percent in some years and as high as 31.6 percent in others, unemployment was 26.9 percent in 2016. This was barely an improvement from the year before. In the West Bank, the unemployment rate is 18.2 percent, while in Gaza it is 41.7 percent.
Unemployment rates are even higher among youth (those between the ages of 15 and 24). The overall youth unemployment rate for both territories at 41.7 percent. In the West Bank, youth unemployment is 29.8 percent. But, in Gaza, it stands at a concerning 61.4 percent.
Additionally, youth unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank affects women more than men. The general female unemployment rate is 44.7 percent. This is twice that of the male unemployment rate, 22.2 percent.
Youth unemployment for women is 65.9 percent, but only 36.2 percent for men. This gap persists even for those aged 25 to 34. In this group, female unemployment is 55 percent and male unemployment is 23.4 percent. As a result, women are more likely to be chronically unemployed. Over time, this only makes them less and less employable.
Moreover, educational attainment has not been found to have a significant impact on reducing unemployment rates. In 2016, the number of unemployed post-secondary school graduates was 33.1 percent. By profession, teachers have the highest unemployment rate, 45.8 percent. This primarily impacts women as they make up the majority of trained educators.
In other fields, unemployment for female graduates is often double that of male graduates. This is most notable in STEM fields. However, even in traditionally “female” fields, male graduates have more success in getting employed. For example, 21.5 percent of male educators are unemployed, compared to 55.9 percent of female educators.
Many factors impact the ability of young women to join the labor force, including travel restrictions and social norms. The World Bank has noted that the probability of a man with a secondary degree in the occupied territories joining the labor market is 65 percent. However, that probability is only 8 percent for women. This indicates that though some women are getting degrees, they are not always able to use them.
Efforts to Improve Youth Unemployment
There are efforts being made with the goal of decreasing youth unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank. Within the past five years, several initiatives have been created to improve opportunities for youth.
In 2014, the Bank of Palestine formed a diaspora program which seeks to use the resources of diaspora Palestinians to help decrease youth unemployment. Approximately 7.2 million Palestinians live outside of Israel and the occupied territories, and have an aggregate wealth of $70 billion. The Bank of Palestine seeks to draw on the resources of these successful Palestinians to improve economic conditions in Gaza and the West Bank.
Additionally, through this network some diaspora Palestinians have become engaged with the issue of youth unemployment, working with the Bank of Palestine to help Palestinian youth. For example, Marcelo Diaz Qumseyeh, a Palestinian who resides in Chile, has worked directly with some Palestinian youth. He gives them advice on how to become successful entrepreneurs. He is also helping to develop a program that will invest in start-ups by Palestinian youth and provide training, mentorship and opportunities for networking to young Palestinians.
International Trade Center Training Efforts
The International Trade Center (ITC) has also been training young entrepreneurs in an effort to improve youth unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank. After a four-month training course that taught 83 youth and refugees in Gaza skills such as web development, digital marketing and graphic design, these individuals collectively secured more than $40,000 in sales. The government of Japan funded the program. In fact, the program helped the trainees gain knowledge about how to find jobs, enter new markets and connect with their clients.
More generally, improving the economy of the occupied territories is also essential to decreasing youth unemployment. According to the World Bank, the Palestinian economy needs a stronger domestic private sector in order to grow. As a result, they have been supporting private investments and job creation, with a focus on supporting youth and female entrepreneurs.
For youth unemployment to significantly decrease, efforts such as these need to continue. Additionally, there is a need for the development of more initiatives and programs. Many young people continue to struggle to find work, particularly in Gaza, where youth unemployment is particularly high. Hopefully, this problem will be substantially addressed in the near future, resulting in the lessening of youth unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank.
– Sara Olk