Mission impossible: Finding a job in Gaza

Mission impossible: Finding a job in Gaza
5 min read
14 April, 2016
With job-seekers caught between destitution and militancy, employment prospects in the Strip have become so bleak, the Hamas-led government is stepping in with a major job-creation project, writes Rami AlMeghari.
The Hamas-led government in Gaza has launched a new jobs creation program [Getty]
Mohammad al-Derdasawi from Gaza City spends most of his time either hanging out with friends or scouring the Strip for a decent job.

It's been five years, and the 26-year-old university graduate has still not found long-term work.

"Actually, I've run into very hard times since I graduated from a local university. Believe me, finding a decent job in Gaza has nothing to do with decency." Derdasawi told The New Arab. He lives in the Shuja'iyya neighborhood, in east Gaza, with his parents and other family members.

Over the past five years, Derdasawi has been applying for jobs across the Gaza Strip, but all his efforts have proved fruitless.

"In Gaza, a young man could either remain jobless for years or take the easiest way; affiliating with a resistance-based [armed] faction," said Derdasawi.

"If he decided to join such a faction, he could possibly get killed or harmed by the Israeli army, unfortunately. So, it is the worse of two evils for us, the graduate youth of Gaza," he sighed.

The young Gazan has been forced to forget about the idea of a stable married life.

"Unfortunately, I can never afford it, unless I have a decent job," said Derdasawi. He had to break off a relationship with a girl he loved because social customs would not allow for them to "remain connected without marriage".

Women hard-hit in employment crisis

Earlier this month, female university graduates rushed to a governmental employment office in an attempt to register for a recently announced job creation programme.

"I've have been seeking a job for four years, instead of staying idle at home. I want badly to reach my goals in life," said Najwa Omar, a 24-year-old Islamic Studies graduate, while she applied for the new project.

She believes spending time looking for a job, even though very hard to find, is better than doing nothing and falling victim to despair. 

"You might have heard about recent cases of suicide attempts, by desperate Gaza youth," Omar added.

This programme can be considered a glimpse of hope for tens of thousands of jobless graduates


Job creation attempts 

In trying to tackle the unemployment problem in Gaza, where generations of university graduates are rendered jobless, the Hamas-led government in the territory launched a new employment programme, in cooperation with a number of ministries.

"This programme can be considered a glimpse of hope for tens of thousands of jobless graduates, even if it is only for a period of three months to one year," said Fedwan Abu Sharee'a, director general of the recruitment department of the government-run chamber of employees. 

"So far, 35 graduates have registered to fill in only 2,500 various jobs, while the actual number of graduates, seeking jobs, stands at nearly 40,000".

The project has been coordinated between the chamber of employees, the ministry of labour, the ministry of finance and the secretariat general of the cabinet. Staffing criteria have been jointy agreed.

"The programme is based on employment needs, provided by the various ministries. These needs include archiving, computerising, laboratory work, water desalination plants, pharmacology and the Islamic legal system." 

Those who are married and have not previously had a job offer will be given top priority, with 500 designated posts for a period of one year and 2,000 others for three-month positions. Successful candidates will receive a monthly salary of around $280, significantly higher than Gaza's average $174 monthly salary.

A previous job-creation project was named Jadara, or "potency". How will this be different from past efforts?

"For this programme, we have made sure that the registration process will be based on a computerised system that would in turn select candidates on basis of set-forth criteria," said government jobs chief Abu Sharee'a.

This situation cannot change unless the siege is lifted

Integrated causes

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Gaza-based universities produce 16,000 graduates every year. This comes while Gaza has been suffering under a crippling Israeli siege for eight years, and political division from the West Bank.

"The construction sector does occasionally function in Gaza," economic analyst Mohsen Abu Ramadan told The New Arab. "Only 27 percent of the reconstruction process of the war-torn Gaza has so far taken place - since the end of the last Israeli war on Gaza in 2014.

"This situation cannot change unless the siege is lifted. Also, there needs to be integration of both ends of the Palestinian Authority; Gaza and the West Bank."

The outlook for employment prospects, without some form of major intervention, looks bleak for the remainder of the year at least.

"There should be some political horizons, such as ending the division between Hamas and Fatah and seeing an end to the Israeli siege," said Abu Ramadan. "These two factors, if secured, then the GNP will notably increase. In addition, there must be deliberate educational planning that would fill in gaps in the market."

Relieving tension

The Hamas-led authority is hoping to tackle the crisis head-on. "In order to relieve tension among the youth sector, the government is deliberately launching such a programme," said Abu Ramadan.

"Yet such a project cannot solve the problem on its own. What is needed is creating a unity Palestinian government."

In June 2014, the rival Hamas and Fatah parties agreed on a consensus government and the Hamas-led government in Gaza stepped down.

But since then, the consensus government has not taken its seat in the Gaza Strip, while Hamas-appointed public service personnel remained in the various ministries to run routine work. No Hamas-linked ministers remained in charge.

Economic conditions in Gaza have worsened, with 43 percent now unemployed.

As representatives of both rival Hamas and Fatah, are reported to have met recently in Doha, the people here in Gaza are not optimistic towards reconciliation.

Rami AlMeghari is a freelance journalist based in Gaza. Follow him on Twitter: @RamiAlMeghari