Al Mezan Center for Human Rights has just published a paper on the effects of unemployment on human rights by examining samples of unemployed university graduates in the Gaza Strip. This paper has been pursued with the aim of identifying the implications of unemployment, especially among university graduates, on access to human rights. Focus groups and questionnaires were the main tools used and a variety of academic backgrounds are represented. Amid unprecedented deterioration in the socioeconomic conditions in the Gaza Strip, the paper warns of continued de-development, with serious socioeconomic consequences on society and repercussions on the surrounding political sphere.
Political developments related to the Israeli government’s closure of the Gaza Strip have negatively affected the rate of overall unemployment, which currently stands at 46.6%, with 60% youth unemployment and 85% unemployment of women. The rate of youth unemployment, 60%, is a stark indicator of the situation for young graduates, and in the academic year 2016/17, the number of students graduating from higher education institutions was 21,508 (11,601 men and 9,907 women). Another 85,660 students were enrolled in colleges or universities and would soon be looking for work, and current enrolment statistics indicate that the annual number of graduates is on the rise.
In the last ten years, more than a quarter of a million graduates (295,510) applied to the Ministry of Labor for temporary employment opportunities. These graduates included holders of a per-master’s high diploma, master’s, and PhD degrees. These figures indicate that youth in particular are unable to access their right to work, and the inter-related rights to health, housing and an adequate standard of living, and family life. While some young people who are unable to find a job can afford to pursue higher education instead, others are simultaneously blocked from working and education due to their financial situation, which furthers the state of exclusion from the political and social processes in society.
Some academic programs and higher education institutions have not been accredited, with all issued certificates awaiting official recognition from the Ministry of Education before being formal. This wait-time delays the search for employment.
The situation is worsened by the lack of effective efforts to bridge the gap between the areas of academic study and the market needs, where the people graduating often do not have academic backgrounds that are in demand.
Many of those affected by unemployment seek low-paid work opportunities, where remuneration often falls below minimum wage. The work conditions in this area can be sub-par and leave individuals vulnerable.
The psychosocial effects of high rates of unemployment can be seen in the frustrated attitudes of unemployed graduates, who are under stress financially and socially, as they report feeling burdensome to their families and to society. The rate of unemployment in the Gaza Strip manifests itself in many different ways, including in:
Al Mezan concluded in the study that no current national plan is in place to lower the unemployment rate, especially among graduates. The disjointed efforts to implement such steps are insufficient and lacking strategy.
The failure to translate the recent reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah into tangible relief for Palestinian society is a negative indicator for unemployment. Many unemployed graduates have expressed their frustration over the lack of progress made in bridging the Palestinian political divide by organizing demonstrations. Their demands, however, are met with seemingly empty assurances.
Unemployment is directly tied to the Israeli government’s policies of blockade, closure, and extensive military attacks, that maintain a protracted humanitarian crisis and stifle the economy in Gaza. The situation is compounded by the unbridged division between Hamas and Fatah and economic sectors such as industry, commerce and service further deteriorate and produce less demand for labor. The poverty that is produced by these circumstances results in the violation of the population’s basic and alienable human rights, and ultimately hinders people’s ability to live a life of dignity.
Alarmed by the stark findings of this study, Al Mezan calls on the international community to take urgent and effective steps to:
Al Mezan has set forth the following recommendations to alleviate the consequences of high unemployment among university graduates: