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'West Bank economic success not as high as reported'
By BEN HARTMAN
08/06/2011
UNRWA report says unemployment in second half of 2010 grew much faster than employment, average purchasing power continued to decline.
 
The economy of the West Bank is not flourishing at the level that has been widely reported as of late, the United Nations Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) stated in a press release on Wednesday.

The press release came upon the release of a new UNRWA report that claims that during the second half of 2010 purchasing power of the average resident of the West Bank has declined as unemployment has far outpaced employment. According to the report, the economic situation is worse for refugees, who the organization says should expect to face an even higher rate of aid dependency than before.

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Author of the research behind the study, Salem Ajluni, said "While there was modest employment growth [in the West Bank], such growth was on the wane in 2010 while the number of unemployed accelerated in the second half of the year."

Aljluni added that in 2010 “the average broad refugee unemployment rate rose by more than a percentage point to 27.9 percent relative to first-half 2009 as compared to 24.1 per cent rate for non-refugees.”

Among both refugees and non-refugees, the report states that there was on average about 3 per cent decline in the real value of their wages.

According to the report, in the second-half of 2010 "non-refugees deepened their labor market while refugees withdrew further, continuing the shrinkage in the West Bank refugee labor force…non-refugees accounted for all net employment gains as refugee employment receded. At the same time, non-refugees accounted for all the growth in unemployment. Reduced refugee labor force participation resulted in a decline in the number of unemployed refugees."

The findings of the report come less than two weeks after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave a speech to the US Congress in which he said "the Palestinian economy is booming. It's growing by more than 10 percent a year."

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said Wednesday that “the economic good news that the media have made much of in recent months overlooks deeper processes underway. Refugee labor 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."
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