Strategies of adaptation: combination of activities

Among the numerous ways of coping with the economic challenges in the societies where Palestinians are residing. Some basic income generating activities can be identified. First, refugees obtain paid work in the state's formal or informal economy. This is the dominant income generating activity. Another activity is to send family members abroad, primarily to the Gulf countries or to the West, to work and send remittances back to the rest of the household. A third activity is investing in land or other property in the host country, an alternative available mostly for the more well-off segments of the Palestinian refugee population. The poorest refugees, those who are unable to meet their own basic needs for food and shelter, have to depend on receiving rations from UNRWA, allowances from charity organisations or gifts from neighbours, relatives and friends. A fifth activity is a dominating long term concern; ensuring education for the children, as an investment for the future family economy.

A household can choose to depend on one or several of these activities, according to the expected short and long term outcome of the different alternatives. What we here consider as the strategy of adaptation refers to the actual choice of activity - or combination of activities - made by the household in order to maintain its economic viability. We can differentiate between two types of strategies: One strategy implies depending on one activity, the other is the strategy of combination. The reason for choosing the first strategy can be urgent short-time priorities where one single activity gives much better outcome than any other alternative. Another reason for depending on one activity is simply that only one option is at hand. The strategy of combining several activities might be to maximise safety, or using diverse short-time activities in order to secure long-time goals. A mixture of activities makes it possible to underpin long-time concerns, like education or accumulation of savings for later investments, through day-to-day activities by some of the family members.

This strategy of combination between different options in a situation of economic hardship and widespread underemployment, is possible because the household in many contexts functions as a decision making unit. Since the most crucial decisions concerning economy, education and movement are not taken individually, but rather inside the family circle (or by the head of the household), it is possible to compose a combination of income sources and expenditures, where pooling of resources is a basic principle. In this way, the income of those household members who have work is shared with those who are either students or unemployed.

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