Four years on, ex-Gaza and Samaria residents still struggling with employment problems

Four years on, ex-Gaza a

Four years after Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip, many of the area's former residents are still struggling to find work and earn enough money to support their families, a study released Tuesday by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry's research department has found. While 63.2 percent of the former citizens of Gaza and northern Samaria have found some type of employment, the level of unemployment is more than twice the national average, and salaries are still much lower than they were before the 2005 disengagement. "Most people do not seem to realize that as well as losing their homes, many of the businesses and job opportunities were wiped out, too," commented Judy Lowy, executive director of JobKatif, a nonprofit organization founded by Alon Shvut Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon to help the former Gaza and Samaria residents find jobs in and around their new communities. "Many of the families [from Gush Katif] are still living in temporary quarters, and even if they are working, they are making very low salaries," continued Lowy, warning that "many families have even started eating into their compensation money, and we are concerned that they will not have anything left when the government finally allocates land for them to build their permanent homes." Lowy also pointed out that many of the families, who for the most part had felt financially secure while they lived in Gush Katif and generally had large numbers of children, were facing a very different reality today. "While [they were] in Gush Katif, there was almost no unemployment; nowadays they are struggling to make ends meet," she said. According to the study, which interviewed some 1,591 former residents of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria, unemployment among this group stands at 16.2%, which has remained constant over the past three years but is more than twice the national average of 7%. Among those who are working, the situation is equally grim, with the average salary only NIS 5,201 a month before taxes, compared to NIS 8,308 for the rest of the country. Close to 60% of the former Gaza and northern Samaria residents reported that they were earning much less today than they had prior to the pullout. Roughly half are still undergoing psychological or psychiatric treatment for the stress caused by being forced from their homes and their jobs, the report noted. "In the Gush, people made a good living," said Lowy, adding that organization had reached an agreement with SELA, the government's Disengagement Authority, to provide a wide range of employment services for former residents. "The situation for these people has changed significantly," she said.