More than half a million Palestinian jobs lost due to Israel-Gaza war

Economic activity at standstill in Gaza while West Bank sees 300,000 jobs wiped out

A Palestinian vegetable vendor at the Balata refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. The Occupied Palestinian Territory's GDP shrunk by a third during the fourth quarter of last year, according to PCBS estimates. AFP
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More than 500,000 jobs were lost across the occupied Palestinian territories between October and the end of January, a UN report has said, with economic activity grinding to a standstill in Gaza.

Nearly 201,000 jobs were lost in the Gaza strip, while 306,000 jobs have been wiped out in the West Bank since the war started on October 7, according to estimates by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).

The figure today would likely be far higher, with Gaza at a total standstill due to Israeli bombing.

“In Gaza, entire neighbourhoods have been wiped from existence,” said Ruba Jaradat, regional director for Arab States at the ILO.

"Infrastructure, energy and water facilities have been demolished. Schools, medical facilities and businesses have been destroyed. This has decimated entire economic sectors and paralysed labour market activity, with untold repercussions on the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians for generations to come."

Should the conflict continue until the end of the month, it is predicted the annual unemployment rate for 2024 will soar to 42.7 per cent. If it persists into the second quarter, the projection is 45.5 per cent.

Impact on wages

The predicted rise in unemployment translates to daily labour income losses of $21.7 million across the territories, according to ILO and PCBS estimates.

The number jumps to $25.5 million a day when combined with income losses due to the "partial payment of wages to civil servants and the reduced incomes of workers in the private sector", the report said.

The war has also affected labour availability. If hostilities continue until mid-2024, projections indicate a decline of 3.6 percentage points in workforce participation rates for men and 1.2 percentage points for women year-on year.

ILO said it is co-ordinating with other UN agencies and is introducing a three-phase programme of relief, review and recovery to support working families and employers in the OPT.

The agency has launched an appeal for $20 million to fund implementation of the response plan.

The war in Gaza has caused an “economic and social crisis that is unprecedented”, Ms Jaradat said.

“We are working with our partners and the international community to provide both immediate relief and longer-term assistance to mitigate the impact of the crisis on affected Palestinian workers and employers,” she added.

With economic activity at a standstill, OPT’s gross domestic product shrunk by a third during the fourth quarter of last year, registering a drop of more than 80 per cent in the Gaza Strip and 22 per cent in the West Bank, according to PCBS estimates.

The economy is projected to decline by a further 15 per cent across the two areas of the OPT if the war continues until mid-2024.

Famine-like situation

Famine is expected between now and May in northern Gaza if urgent aid is not delivered, according to another UN-backed report.

Across the entire Gaza Strip, the number of people facing "catastrophic hunger" has risen to 1.1 million, about half the population, a report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification said.

The head of the World Health Organisation has said the agency is "terribly worried" about the situation at Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest medical complex, following an Israeli raid on Monday.

Updated: March 19, 2024, 11:00 AM