Main Economic Concerns

Among the most important economic concerns we will single out three areas which Palestinians accord the highest priority: education, marriage and housing.


Education is valued as a good investment, because it is perceived to lead to a well paid work, and thus improve the family's future standard of living, as well as securing a sort of pension to the parents. 50 year old Ibrahim from Askar explains his priorities: "By the money I earned from my construction work in Israel, we built another room next to the UNRWA-flat. Our house looked poorer than most houses in the neighbourhood, because we insisted on keeping our children at school, instead of letting them start working", he says.

Registered Palestinian refugees have the right to enrol their children in UNRWA-schools which follow the state's education system. UNRWA-schools are in general better than governmental schools, but they are not as good as some of the private schools.

Dr. Ja'far, the doctor presented on page 47, settled in Amman after he was forced to leave Saudi Arabia as a result of the Gulf war. Dr. Ja'far chooses to send all his children to private schools. The family uses a total of 4,000 JD (5,800 USD) yearly on education. Not only well off residents like Dr. Ja'far send their children to private schools, lower-class families also send their children to cheaper private schools, often run by missionaries or other religious foundations.


Marriage is a main economic concern for young men who often have to save money for years before they can afford what is required for the arrangement. Besides the wedding party and gifts to the bride, the main expense is housing, which the bridegroom is supposed to facilitate. Newly married Khaled (32) in Amman used over 5,000 JD (7,250 USD) for his marriage. His salary as a teacher is 160 JD (230 USD) monthly, which means that the marriage cost him two and a half year's income. Khaled points out his main expenses for the wedding and other arrangements: 2,000 JD (2,900 USD) for the gold he gave to the bride, 2,500 JD (3,625 USD) for furniture and painting for the new, rented flat outside Nasr Camp, where he is grown up, and 500 JD (725 USD) for the party itself. He used all his savings from seven years of work, and received a sum from his father, but still he had to borrow 1,500 JD (2,175 USD) from the bank to cover the costs.


When it comes to housing, living in a camp is the cheapest option. Those refugees who choose to settle outside the camps, can rent or buy the housing. Monthly expenses for renting a flat, or for mortgages usually constitute the largest expense-post on the household's budget. The economic aspect of the question of moving out of a camp is therefore central; some can afford it and some cannot.

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