Introducing the Lebanon context

Lebanon has a long history of migration. The country has successively and over time been both a place of refuge and a place to leave for a better and safer life. The Lebanese Civil war (1975-1990), numerous Israeli attacks, and socioeconomic and political instability have generated multiple migrations from Lebanon, whilst the country has received many refugees and migrants.

Lebanon today hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide, relative to its population. There are about 175,000 Palestinians who are mainly the descendants of the 1948 refugees who fled historic Palestine with the establishment of the Israeli State [1]. More than half of Palestinian refugees live in the 12 official UNRWA camps [2]. Since 2011, due to the uprising that turned into a global war in Syria, about a million Syrians and 32,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria [3] have taken refuge in Lebanon. Syrians are scattered all over the country, but are mainly concentrated in North Lebanon and Bekaa districts. UNHCR did not open official camps as it did in other countries because the Lebanese government opposed such a measure fearing, among other reasons, a repeat of the past Palestinian experience.

Our aim in this project is to understand what shapes the trajectories of Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian youth in Lebanon from education to employment. For that purpose, we will take into consideration socio-economic and legal statuses, gender, social and familial capital, migration history, religion and other potential factors that will be identified during the first stage of the project.

Formal schooling in Lebanon takes place in public and private schools and there is some access to vocational training. The Lebanese education system, however, is dominated by the private sector. Informal schooling includes preparation for formal education, Syrian schools, informal vocational training or other skills development, religious schools and apprenticeships. Non-Lebanese students have access to the public education system in Lebanon. However, this is subject to restrictions and regulations that are yearly defined by the Minister of Education and Higher Education [4]. Palestinian pupils are mainly enrolled in the 69 schools run by UNRWA while Syrians tend to attend second shifts in public schools or informal schooling and are predominantly segregated from Lebanese children. For both groups the drop-out level is high. Poorer Lebanese students have lower dropout rates, but tend to attend public schools of low standard.

Over the past two decades, higher education has experienced an important expansion in Lebanon. This expansion, as well as the increased availability of highly-skilled people in the economy, however, was not met with an increase in job creation and labour-market demand. Unemployment at the national level has increased to approximately 20 per cent, with youth unemployment estimated at 34 per cent. Educated and skilled youth are more likely to leave the country in search for jobs while the less educated youth work in the informal sector. According to the World Bank, the informal sector is estimated at 36.4% of GDP [5] and more than half of the workers are either informal wage employees or low-skilled self-employed individuals who have no access to social insurance and labour regulation[6]. The refugee population in Lebanon suffer the most under these conditions[7], because they are also subject to legal restrictions on access the formal labour market. Since their exile in the late 1940s, Palestinians have been deprived of several basic civil rights. They are thus barred from working in most skilled professions. Syrian nationals in Lebanon are only permitted to be formally employed in the agriculture, construction and environment sectors in Lebanon.

In order to capture a more global view of youth trajectories in Lebanon, we will conduct research in urban and rural areas, Palestinian camps and informal Syrian camps, considering each location’s own specific socio-economic, political and demographic profile. In Beirut, the research will take place in Ain el-Rummaneh, Bourj el-Barajneh, Sabra and Shatila, and Tariq Jdideh. In Saida, we will focus on the old city, Ain el-Hilwe camp and Majdelyoun. Lastly, in the Bekaa, we will go to Bar Elias and Chtoura.

View across Bourj Al-Barajneh (Paul Adams, BBC)

[1] LPDC, Population and Housing Census in Palestinian Camps and Gatherings in Lebanon 2017.
[2] Chaaban et al., Socio-Economic Survey of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon, Beirut, American University of Beirut (AUB)-United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near-East (UNRWA), 2010.
[3] UNWRA, PRS in Lebanon
[4] LPDC, 2019, The Palestinian Student in the Lebanese Education
[5] World Bank. 2012. Republic of Lebanon Good Jobs Needed: The Role of Macro, Investment, Education, Labor and Social Protection Policies. World Bank Report No. 76008-LB. Accessed 020417.
[6] Abou Jaoude, H. 2015. Labour Market and Employment Policy in Lebanon. European Training Foundation (ETF). 2017). 
[7] ANND. 2017. Arab Watch on economic and Social Rights 2016 – Informal Employment

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