Unemployment rate nearly 80 per cent in Gaza: UN

A member of a United Nations investigation team holds large chunks of shrapnel during a visit by investigators of a school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. [AFP]

The war in Gaza has seen the unemployment rate in the besieged Palestinian territory surge to nearly 80 per cent, the United Nations said Friday.

The UN's labour agency said the war between Hamas and Israel had "caused loss of jobs and livelihoods on a massive scale", while gross domestic product has also plunged.

Since the war began in October last year, "the unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip has reached a staggering 79.1 per cent", the International Labour Organization said, citing a new brief by the ILO and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

In the West Bank, unemployment has reached 32 per cent, the ILO added.

The average unemployment rate across the West Bank and Gaza combined stood at 50.8 per cent, it said.

However, these figures "do not account for those who have left the labour force altogether as job prospects proved unattainable", it said.

"The actual number of those who have lost their jobs is therefore even higher than what the unemployment figures suggest."

The bloodiest-ever Gaza war was sparked by Hamas's October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 251 hostages, 120 of whom remain in Gaza, including 41 the army says are dead.

Israel's retaliatory military offensive has killed at least 36,731 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

The ILO said real GDP had contracted by 83.5 percent in the Gaza Strip and by 22.7 percent in the West Bank over the past eight months.

"Our new bulletin shows that the grim toll the war in the Gaza Strip has taken on human lives, and the desperate humanitarian situation it has caused, are accompanied by widespread devastation of economic activities and livelihoods," said Ruba Jaradat, the ILO regional director for Arab states.

 'Collapsed' labour market 

The ILO said that in the Gaza Strip almost all private sector establishments "have either completely ceased or significantly reduced production", with the sector shedding 85.8 per cent of its production value -- equivalent to $810 million -- during the first four months of the war.

Gaza's economy now represents 4.1 per cent of the total Palestinian economy, down from 16.7 per cent before the war.

The unemployment update comes as the ILO holds its annual International Labour Conference in Geneva from June 3-14.

"In the wake of the horrific Hamas-led atrocities against Israel and the ensuing relentless war waged by Israel, the labour market in Gaza has literally collapsed," ILO chief Gilbert F. Houngbo said during the conference on Thursday.

"Gaza is in ruins. Livelihoods are shattered and work is scarce. Labour rights have been decimated.

"This has been the hardest year for Palestinian workers since 1967. Never before has the situation been this bleak."

Houngbo called for a job-rich and rights-driven early recovery even while the humanitarian response to the war is still unfolding, saying job creation and decent work out to be at the heart of rebuilding infrastructure and services.

"Of course, none of this will be possible without an end to the current war and the release of all hostages," the former Togolese prime minister added.

Founded in 1919, the ILO has 187 member states, which are, uniquely in the UN system, represented equally by governments, employers and workers.