Palestinian Public Perceptions on Their Living Conditions

Palestinian Public Perceptions on Their Living Conditions

The Role of International and Local Aid during the second Intifada
Excerpts from a Report Prepared by the Graduate Institute of Development Studies (IUED), University of Geneva

In March 2003, the Graduate Institute of Development Studies at the University of Geneva, published its 5th report on the Role of International and Local Aid during the second Intifada. The 156-page report includes information on the socio-economic conditions of Palestinians in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories, food, health and education, women and children, assistance, UNRWA, and the impact of aid and Palestinians’ perceptions.

Like previous IUED reports, the material includes information specific to refugees and by area of residence (i.e., camps, villages, and cities). Below is a short summary of the some of the key findings concerning Palestinian refugees in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories. The study is based on a representative sample of 1,377 Palestinians over the age of 18, interviewed face-to-face in early November 2002.

Income

The income of households in the West Bank has been very significantly hit by the severe closure and Israeli military occupation. Between November 2001 and November 2002, the number of households with an income ranging between NIS 2000-3000 [US$ 420-630] decreased from 32% to 14% in the West Bank (non-camp) and from 37% to 23% in the West Bank refugee camps. In return, West Bank non-camp households with an income ranging between NIS 500-1600 [US$ 105-335] increased from 26% in November 2001 to 40% in November 2002. For West Bank camp residents, this proportion of households in this category increased from 38% to 44%. Finally, the proportion of West Bank non-camp households with an income of less than NIS 500 increased from 9% in November 2001 to 14% in November 2002.

On the other hand, households in the Gaza Strip, particularly those residing in the refugee camps, have a lower level of income than households in the West Bank. Moreover, as was the case in the West Bank, a drop of income has also affected households in the Gaza Strip. Whereas in November 2001, 26% of Gaza non-camp households and 14% of Gaza camp households had an income ranging between NIS 2000-3000, this proportion decreased respectively to 14% and 10%. Finally, it is worth noting that out of all the places of residence in the occupied Palestinian territory, the highest proportion of households with a very low income was found in the Gaza refugee camps (25%).

Poverty

Analysis of the poverty rate according to the place of residence, clearly points to a higher level of poverty and extreme poverty in the Gaza Strip (including its refugee camps) than in the West Bank. Jerusalem is characterized by a low poverty rate (8%) and almost no hardship cases. Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip (non-camp) the poverty rate stands at 79%, of which 35% are hardship cases. In the West Bank (non-camp), the poverty rate reaches 62% with 27% hardship cases. Within the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, there is no significant difference regarding the poverty rate between refugee camps and non-refugee camps, albeit that the rate of hardship cases is much higher inside Gaza refugee camps (44%) than outside Gaza refugee camps (35%).

From a more general point of view, there are no differences between villages and cities regarding the risk of poverty and extreme poverty, but that this risk is much higher in refugee camps. Indeed, the poverty rate in refugee camps stands at 75% compared to 60% in cities and villages. Furthermore, whereas the rate of hardship cases reaches 39% in refugee camps, it is about 25% in cities and villages. As could be expected, refugees are more likely to be poor than non-refugees. The poverty rate of the former is 68% whereas it is 57% for the latter. However, the difference in hardship cases is less significant 29% compared to 27%.

Expectations about the Future

Gathering information about people’s expectations for the future is another important element to gauge a population’s perception of their economic and social situation. In general, when interviewees were asked how they expected poverty to evolve in the next six months, the large majority of 78% responded that they expected poverty to increase. There are, however, important differences in opinion according to the place of residence of the respondents. West Bank respondents, whether residing in camps (90%) or outside camps (81%), are far more pessimistic about the future than compatriots in the Gaza Strip, whether residing in camps (68%) or outside camps (70%). The higher level of pessimism among West Bank respondents regarding the future evolution of poverty is most likely a result of the extremely strenuous closure policy and the higher level of military occupation that residents in the West Bank had to deal with over the past months. Finally, it is important to note the extraordinary high level of pessimism in Jerusalem, where 95% of the respondents expected poverty to increase in the next six months.

Mobility

Under such conditions, it is not surprising to see that 56% of the respondents declared it was difficult or very difficult for them, or for their family members to go to work. 14% declared that this was almost impossible. Villagers have been particularly hit by mobility restrictions as a result of their isolation and their inability to reach the work place. Indeed, 20% of them emphasized that it was almost impossible for them to go to work in the past 12 months and 61% stated that it was difficult or very difficult, whereas the rates where respectively 9% and 57% for cities and 17% and 43% for refugee camp residents.

The effects of mobility restrictions were felt in some places more than others. West Bank refugee camp residents were the most affected from this point of view as 31% of the respondents declared that it was almost impossible to go to work and 69% said that it was difficult and very difficult. When examining the ability of Palestinians to go to work according to area of residence, it is clear that the West Bank suffered the most over the past 12 months and has been affected very negatively by mobility restrictions as compared to the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. 59% of the Gaza Strip respondents (including Gaza refugee camps) said that it was not difficult to go to work, whereas almost all the West Bank respondents had some difficulties to go to work during that period.

Employment

It is a well-known fact that traditionally unemployment has been higher in the Gaza Strip than in the West Bank. Indeed, analysis of labor force participation according to place of residence in last year’s report (Bocco, Brunner, Daneels and Rabah 2001:41), revealed that whereas 28% of Gaza non-camp residents and 40% of Gaza camp residents were unemployed, this was the case for 26% of West Bank non-camp residents and 24% of West Bank camp residents. A closer look at the unemployment, however, reveals not only that since November 2001, generally, unemployment has increased in every place in the occupied Palestinian territory (except for Gaza Strip refugee camps), it also indicates that the unemployment rate has increased much faster in the West Bank than in the Gaza Strip.

A similar trend towards mass unemployment is also observed when analyzing the employment situation according to refugee status. 26% of the refugee respondents declared to be employed full-time and 18% said that they were unemployed. Among non-refugees, the rates were respectively 22% and 18%. In fact, unemployment increased much faster among non-refugees, as in November 2001 only 12% of them were unemployed compared to 17% of the refugee respondents (Bocco, Brunner, Daneels and Rabah 2001:42).

When looking at the duration of unemployment of breadwinners according to location, it is clear that the rate of long-term unemployment is the higher in the Gaza Strip (44%) than in the West Bank (25%). The rate of breadwinners who have been unemployed for more than 12 months is especially high in the Gaza Strip refugee camps (58%). Long-term unemployment is also much higher in the West Bank refugee camps (37%) than in the West Bank outside camps (23%).

Finally, when examining the change in the employment situation according to residence, the results point to a far more stable employment situation in the cities than in camps and villages. 61% of the respondents in cities maintained the same job, compared to 52% of the respondents in refugee camps and 39% of the respondents in the villages. Furthermore, whereas 28% of the respondents in cities lost their employment, this is the case for 34% of the camp respondents and 33% of the villagers.

Coping Strategies

The ability to cope financially in the coming period varies considerably depending on the place of residence of the respondents. Inhabitants from Gaza refugee camps are in the most difficult situation as 32% of these respondents stated that they were in a serious condition and do not have enough to live on, and 44% said that they can barely manage. Meanwhile, it seems that non-camp Gaza residents are in a relatively better position, even compared to camp and non-camp residents in the West Bank. 20% of Gaza non-camp respondents stated that they do not have enough money to live on, and 36% of them stated that they could barely manage. In comparison, 20% of West Bank non-camp respondents and 16% of West Bank camp respondents said that they do not have enough money to live on, while 42% of the former and 45% of the latter said that they can barely manage.

The reduction of daily expenses is more widely used in some places compared to others. Nearly 80% of the respondents residing in Gaza refugee camps have reduced their daily expenses, and 84% of the respondents residing in West Bank refugee camps have done so. About 68% of non-camp respondents in the West Bank have decreased their daily expenses compared to 69% of the non-camp residents in the Gaza Strip. It is also worth mentioning that only about half (49%) of the Jerusalemite respondents have reduced their daily expenses. For more respondents residing in cities (54%) their monthly income remains sufficient than for respondents in villages (38%) and refugee camps (28%). In contrast, more respondents in villages (41%) and refugee camps (36%) seem to have nothing to rely on than respondents in cities (32%).

It is also worth noting that while consumption has sharply decreased everywhere it was particularly alarming in the Gaza refugee camps where 70% of the respondents answered they reduced the consumption of dairy products and 77% the consumption of meat; the rates where respectively 60% and 68% in the Gaza Strip, 52% and 69% in the West Bank and 57% and 63% in the West Bank refugee camps.

The report was written by Riccardo Bocco, Matthias Brunner, Isabelle Deneels, Frédéric LaPeyre, and Jamil Rabah. The study was funded by SDC - Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, UNDP, UNICEF, UNRWA and the UN World Food Program. Copies of the IUED reports are available at the IUED website, www.iued.unige.ch/information/publications/rapp_palestine.html