New UN research challenges conventional view of the West Bank economy

08 June 2011

8 June 2011

New research by the United Nations Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA, released today, challenges the conventional picture of a flourishing West Bank economy. Contrary to media and other reports, the research shows that in the second half of 2010 unemployment grew much faster than employment, and the purchasing power of average working people’s wages continued to decline in the face of persistently high unemployment rates and consumer price inflation. According to the indicators, results for refugees were worse than for non-refugees in the West Bank.

“While there was modest employment growth, such growth was on the wane in 2010 while the number of unemployed accelerated in the second half of the year. Refugee labour force participation continued to recede, perhaps due to discouragement about job prospects, as refugee employment declined in this period,” said researcher, Salem Ajluni, author of the new research. “The average broad refugee unemployment rate rose by more than a percentage point to 27.9 pe rcent relative to first-half 2009 as compared to 24.1 per cent rate for non-refugees.” Both employed refugees and non-refugees lost an average of about 3 per cent in real value of their wages.

“The implications of these results are profound for the refugees served by UNRWA,” said Agency spokesman, Chris Gunness. “The economic good news that the media have made much of in recent months overlooks deeper processes underway. Refugee labour market conditions in particular regressed. The occupation and its related infrastructure such as settlements and settler-only roads that encroach on and divide Palestinian land, settler violence and the West Bank Barrier have diminished prospects for Palestinians in general and especially for refugees. This is likely to raise the rate of aid dependency among refugees, placing ever greater pressures on UNRWA.

Download the full report (PDF)

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For interview requests and more information please contact:

Chris Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267

Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724

Salem Ajluni
Mobile: +972 (0) 54 216 8408

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at more than US$ 106  million.

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