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Synthesis of the crisis impact on the Lebanese labour market and potential business, employment and training opportunities

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INTRODUCTION

Lebanon’s economic, social and security situation has rapidly deteriorated since the October 2019 protests calling for an overhaul of the government and is now facing a “triple crisis” caused by the economic meltdown, the global COVID-19 pandemic and Beirut blast on August 4th, which devasted its capital. As a result, a wide segment of the Lebanese and non-Lebanese population has fallen below the poverty line, with livelihoods of those already living in poverty worsened due to inflation, a decline in employment opportunities, and a reduction in basic social service provision.

Businesses have faced temporary and permanent closures since spring 2020 due to continued supply chain disruptions and reduced business traffic. Of the total 363 sampled small-scale enterprises in Lebanon, 51% temporarily stopped operations, and of 1,987 interviewed workers, 84% were laid off and 94% saw their wages largely reduced(i), leading to a surge of unemployment which saw a drastic increase.

The COVID-19 crisis also exacerbated pre-existing employment and education disparities, reducing opportunities for many of the most vulnerable populations(ii).

Lebanon currently houses around 6 million Lebanese and non-Lebanese residents, 44% under the age of 24, a relatively high youth percentage compared to the global average(iii). As the triple crisis continues to worsen, youth are struggling to find hope, support and opportunities amid mounting despair.

Each year, roughly 50,000 Lebanese youth are new entrants to the labour market, yet many are not able to get a job with local firms, especially in the current environment. Youth are also facing structural barriers (decreasing job opportunities and ill-equipped education systems to compete for increasingly scarce jobs, lacking skills and labour market experience and professional networks) and personal barriers (lack of money and limited professional networks). These factors keep them out of the labour market(iv); adding to that the crisis which is forcing youth from all backgrounds to take on responsibilities beyond their ages, with detrimental impacts on their mental health and on access to opportunities.

Subsequently, more and more young people are dropping out of education or any type of learning to engage in ill-paid, irregular and informal work to generate whatever income they can to help their families cope with the mounting challenges1 . There is increasingly fierce competition among young people for low-paying work in the informal sector and cash-for-work programmes. With almost one million of the population in the 15-24 age group, the youth unemployment gap, estimated at 60 per cent, is expected to continue rising2 . With dramatic rises in unemployment and heightened job insecurity, it is more critical than ever to link the supply to the demand effectively through interventions that ensure necessary skilling support for jobseekers seeking to enter, or re-enter the labour market, and those in employment looking to upgrade their skills and secure their livelihoods. It is equally important to support businesses develop and create enough jobs to absorb the existing workforce.

This report presents an overview of the sectors and workers impacted by the multiple crisis in Lebanon in addition to a synthesis of the potential business and training opportunities in Lebanon that are recommended in response to this crisis.

It builds on research conducted by ILO, UNICEF, and others on impact of the crisis on the labour market and economic sectors and recommendations to alleviate the economic and social pressure on households, workers and businesses.
The report is developed within the context of the UNICEF/ILO partnership joint programme “Towards improved formal and non-formal technical and vocational education and training in Lebanon” (2017-2022).

As the Lebanese Government is investing efforts to produce a rescue plan with the aim of lessening the impact of the current crisis through various reforms to pave the way for a new and more responsive model for the Lebanese economy, socio-economic interventions at the macro, meso and micro levels are required addressing three interconnected factors impeding employment. These are: (1) lack of investment and low capacity for growth; (2) labour market skills gap; and (3) lack of interest in the jobs on offer, mostly because of poor working conditions or low pay. Such interventions should be designed to ensure the inclusion of all groups from the community, and those mostly affected by the crisis.