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Thousands apply for short-term jobs program in Gaza

In a move to address the unemployment crisis, the Gaza government has created temporary employment projects that aim to provide temporary relief and stimulate the economy.
Unemployed Palestinian workers crowd in front of the Palestine Islamic Bank in Gaza to receive a $100 aid from the government appointed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas September 30, 2007.  REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA) - RTR1UFIM

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — In a press conference in Gaza on July 12, Palestinian LaboMinister Mamoun Abu Shahla announced the start of the registration process for the first phase of a short-term employment project: hiring 4,000 university graduates and laborers for positions to last six months.

Abu Shahla told Al-Monitor, “The project’s first phase provides 4,000 jobs for graduates, blue-collar workers and technicians equally, each 2,000, in the health and education sectors and municipalities, as well as economic facilities affected by the 2014 Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.”

He added, “This number of people will be actually hired in early August 2016, after their names are selected and the ministry’s employment priorities and needs are determined.”

Abu Shahla had announced in May that the ministry's employment program would be funded by the government with 60 million shekels ($23 million) every six months. The government will be looking for additional foreign funds provided by foreign or Arab countries in order to be able to continue with the project in case it ran out of money.

The Labor Ministry's public relations director Nabil al-Mabhouh told Al-Monitor, “The employment projects are designed to reduce unemployment rates in Gaza, empower the recent university graduates and other young job seekers, and provide them with the necessary knowledge, skills and expertise to join the Palestinian labor market.”

On the selection criteria, Mabhouh said, “It depends on the academic credentials and graduation year. Priority is given to those who have never had a government job.”

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reported in July 2015 that more than 150,000 university graduates are unemployed in Palestine, where 9,454 men and 9,371 women graduated from college in 2015. Some 2,500 students graduated that year from 29 higher education institutes in Gaza, where job opportunities are sparse.

Asma Baroud, who studied Arabic at the Islamic University in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “I have been looking for a job since I graduated in 2010 to help my husband, who is underemployed, given the lack of jobs in Gaza. Unfortunately, I have failed to find myself one, because there are no appropriations for Gaza in the PA budget, there are no job opportunities in Gaza and because the Gaza government failed to create jobs for the large number of graduates. This is why I hope to get a job as part of this project.”

Mohammed Disht, who holds a degree in sociology from Al-Azhar University in Gaza and provides for a family of four, told Al-Monitor that he has been working as a volunteer at the Social Affairs Ministry for two years, in return for food aid packages each month. He said, “It is a treasure to find a job in Gaza, in light of the increasing number of graduates, high unemployment rates and lack of jobs. I hope to be selected to get a temporary job to meet my and my family’s needs.”

Tareq Mahmoud, a construction worker from Gaza, hopes to get a temporary job as part of this project. He told Al-Monitor, “I hope to get the chance to find a job in line with my skills and capabilities as construction worker in this employment project, and not to work as garbage collector, as was the case in previous employment projects.”

For his part, Aziz al-Madhoun, director general of welfare services at the Social Affairs Ministry, told Al-Monitor that many Gazans provide for their families "benefit from the ministry’s programs and receive aid from the ministry." He said, "Every three months, 14,401 families benefit from the cash assistance program, and 4,749 out of the 70,000 families in Gaza benefit from the UN World Food Programme’s food items such as flour, rice, sugar and other goods.” Coordination between the Social Affairs Ministry and the Labor Ministry will prevent Gazans from benefiting from both programs at once.

Maher Tabbah, the public relations and media manager at the Gaza Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Al-Monitor, “The employment projects announced by the government are temporary. They do not achieve sustainable development, nor do they contribute effectively to resolving the unemployment problem. Yet, in light of the economic conditions and high unemployment rates, they temporarily contribute to finding jobs, which may give the graduates and unemployed a glimpse of hope to provide for themselves, if just for a limited time.”

He noted, “There is a need to continue work on such projects by integrating the workers into the ministries and make sure that the workers' experience and skills are appropriate to their jobs.” He stressed the need for the jobless “to be employed in creative construction projects such as the maintenance of public places, facilities, government buildings and civil institutions, rather than including them in street-cleaning projects, as in previous projects.”

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