Child labor has doubled in the Gaza Strip in the last five years as the sliver blockaded by the Israeli regime reels from a 43-percent unemployment rate.
The Palestinian Bureau of Statistics said the number of working children (ages 10-17) has increased to 9,700 in the coastal strip in the past five years with 2,900 of them under the legal working age of 15.
However, Gaza’s economists estimate the real figure could be twice that number.
"We are five brothers and eight sisters. I am the oldest son and I had to work because my father is unemployed," said 16-year-old Haitham Khzaiq, who left school six months ago to be a seller of candy apples to visitors of Gaza's seaport, which serves as a main picnic spot. Khzaiq works a half-day, seven days a week, making 20 shekels (USD 5).
"I don't earn enough but it is better than nothing and it is better than begging people for money," he added.
The bleak report comes at a time that the International Labour Organization has announced that the worldwide number of working children has fallen by a third, from 246 million to 168 million, since 2000.
The 16-year-old Mahmoud Yazji and another boy, aged 12, work together nine hours a day at a garage in downtown Gaza.
Mahmoud told Reuters that he earns the equivalent of USD 13 a week, while his younger friend is given half of that.
"My father makes 1,000 shekels (USD 258) a month. It disappears in a few days and we struggle for the rest of the month," Mahmoud added.
According to the United Nations Gaza’s unemployment rate has risen to 43 percent compared to about 35 percent five years ago.
The UN also said that 80 percent of the strip’s people are aid dependent
Gaza has been blockaded by the Israeli regime since June 2007, a situation that has caused a decline in the standards of living, unprecedented levels of unemployment, and unrelenting poverty. Egypt has also imposed a siege of its own on Gaza.
The apartheid regime of Israel denies about 1.9 million people in Gaza their basic rights, such as freedom of movement, proper job, and adequate healthcare and education.
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