Posts

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Lebanon
The small, Middle Eastern nation of Lebanon has undergone development and overall economic growth despite the conflict between the nation and neighboring states. Although Lebanon has experienced an overall increase in economic power, the distribution of wealth is largely unequal, causing more issues of poverty in the country. In order to gain a better understanding of poverty and how it is affecting the country, below are the top 10 facts about poverty in Lebanon.

Top 10 Poverty Facts about Lebanon

  1. Lebanon’s economy has grown exponentially since the beginning of development, offering citizens job opportunities to increase the standard of living. In 1988, Lebanon had a GDP of $3.31 billion. As of 2017, the country’s economy exponentially rose to an estimated $49.60 billion, which ranks 82nd highest in the world.
  2. Although GDP has certainly increased in recent years, the rate of economic growth in Lebanon has fluctuated. In some years since faster development, Lebanon experienced as low as a 56 percent decrease in GDP due to political instability and global economic decline. Most recently, however, Lebanon maintains an approximately successful 2 percent GDP growth rate.
  3. The service industry is Lebanon’s overwhelming largest economic sector, with specialized jobs and tourism services continuing to increase. The service industry accounts for a majority of the GDP in Lebanon at an estimated 73.3 percent, while industry and agriculture comprise 21 percent and 5.7 percent of the GDP, respectively.
  4. The unemployment rate in Lebanon is relatively average due to financial and political issues in the country, with an estimated 6.3 percent unemployment rate in 2017. While economic opportunity has been improved for many Lebanese, this number has actually stayed around the same over the past year, reaching the lowest of 6.2 percent unemployment.
  5. Although Lebanon’s economy has continued to grow, poverty in the country remains relatively prominent. Approximately 30 percent of the country’s grand total of six million people live under $4 a day. Poverty is much higher in the rural regions of the north, while it is less prominent in urban areas like the capital city of Beirut.
  6. Life expectancy in Lebanon has risen significantly catalyzed by rapid development throughout the country. In 1960, the average lifetime of people in Lebanon was an already relatively high 63.2 years and has increased to 79.6 years in 2016.
  7. School enrollment and persistence to end enrollment in Lebanon has fluctuated and decreased since the beginning of development. In 1999, about 90 percent of primary school students completed their full studies, while this number has decreased to 84 percent in 2016. Decreased educational persistence can trap some Lebanese into low-skill, high-demand job markets.
  8. Despite a decrease in primary school enrollment in Lebanon, the adult literacy rate in the country is high, standing at 91.18 percent. In young adults (ages 15 to 24), the literacy rate is substantially higher at 99.24 percent, and the male and female literacy rates are relatively equal with 99.16 percent and 99.34 percent, respectively.
  9. Nearly 500,000 people in Lebanon are Palestinian refugees registered with United Nations relief organizations in the country. This makes up an approximate 8 percent of the country’s population, but many continue to live in refugee camps in extreme poverty with limited access to diversified job markets.
  10. Poor Lebanese citizens and international refugees are more likely to be subjected to human trafficking. Refugees and women are particularly vulnerable to be involved in forced labor. Although the government has been working on decreasing the prevalence of forced labor and human trafficking in the country, results and impact have been inconsistent.

Lebanon has increased its economy, offering more opportunities for its people. A strong focus on the service and skilled industry, along with industrial and agricultural growth has allowed the country to increase its standard of living. Although the economy has developed significantly, poverty for some Lebanese and severe limitations for refugees still continues. With more freedom and better security for these people, poverty will continue to decrease in Lebanon.

– Matthew Cline
Photo: Flickr
 

Lebanon
Lebanon is a small nation wedged between the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Israel to the south and Syria to the northeast. Despite its size and a population of only six million, Lebanon became a center of trade in the Middle East during the mid-1900s. It is also known for its diverse culture in which Shia and Sunni Muslims live alongside a large Christian minority and other smaller groups.

The outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975 undermined the country’s prosperity and stability. The conflict lasted 15 years and Lebanon has struggled to recover ever since. While Lebanon remains a relatively wealthy nation in the region overall, its economic situation has become increasingly complicated and many people living in the country do not benefit from that wealth. Here are the top 10 facts crucial to know about poverty in Lebanon.

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Lebanon

  1. More than 25 percent of Lebanese citizens live in poverty. That number sinks as low as 16 percent in urban areas like the capital city of Beirut, and climbs to 36 percent in some rural areas.
  2. A person living below the poverty threshold in Lebanon earns less than $266 per month.
  3. Children in poor families are less likely to be able to complete their education. This can trap them in low-skill, high-demand job-markets.
  4. As many as 20 percent of Lebanese citizens live with unimproved sanitation facilities; 10 percent of poor households have no access to clean drinking water.
  5. There are more than one million refugees in Lebanon, with most fleeing the Syrian civil war. Refugees are not counted in many official poverty statistics from Lebanon’s government, meaning that the effects of poverty are significantly more widespread than these statistics suggest.
  6. Nearly half a million Palestinian refugees are registered with U.N. relief organizations in Lebanon. Palestinians may make up as much as 10 percent of the country’s population but they lack several important rights. Many live in U.N. camps in extreme poverty and are denied access to certain types of work.
  7. Poor Lebanese citizens, refugees and women brought in from other countries around the world are vulnerable to human trafficking. Refugees are especially likely to be coerced into forced labor. In 2014, the Lebanese government committed to reducing human trafficking within the country, but the results have been inconsistent so far.
  8. Poor Lebanese workers are often trapped in high-turnover or seasonal jobs with low wages. Making matters worse, the government and U.N. cannot adequately support the huge refugee population in Lebanon, meaning that many of them must find work to survive. This pits citizens and non-citizens against each other. Lebanese workers suddenly face much higher competition for jobs. Meanwhile, refugees lack citizens’ legal protections, which forces many of them to work in difficult conditions for half or even a third of what native workers are paid.
  9. Women (especially heads of households) are often the most impacted by poverty. Many are culturally expected to raise and care for a family but are also forced to enter the workforce to provide additional income. These dual expectations can add to their burden, stifle their educational prospects and make it difficult for them to access highly-competitive jobs.
  10. Social safety programs are rare and inconsistent in Lebanon. Many families are forced to go hundreds or thousands of dollars into debt to cover unexpected expenses like medical bills.

Building a Safety Net

The Lebanese Civil War severely damaged the country’s economy and infrastructure and the modern refugee crisis has only increased the strain. That said, several promising programs could alleviate these problems and reduce the impact of poverty in Lebanon.

While Lebanon’s social programs are still relatively young and often haphazard, the government has formed two primary means of relieving poverty: the National Social Security Fund and the Emergency National Poverty Targeting Programme. Expanding and improving these programs along with continued investment in infrastructure and education could make an enormous difference in the lives of thousands of Lebanese citizens.

Unfortunately, these government programs do not cover refugees. U.N. humanitarian aid has traditionally stepped up to fill this void, but even these resources have recently begun to dry up.

Response from the International Community

These 10 facts about poverty in Lebanon illustrate a complex and ongoing struggle to improve living conditions in the country. As the Syrian conflict continues, the government of Lebanon will have to continue to cope with an unstable region and an increasingly large population of foreign refugees within its borders.

Thankfully, Lebanon is not alone. In April, around 50 countries met in Paris at the CEDRE Conference where they pledged to invest more than $11 billion into Lebanon’s economy. Time will tell if measures like these will accomplish their goal of restoring prosperity to Lebanon and, eventually, to the Middle East.

– Josh Henreckson
Photo: Flickr

refugees in Lebanon
Following the Syrian crisis, there has been a sizeable loss of the records on state affairs in Lebanon. The last conducted assessment took place in 2011, prior to the presence of refugees in Lebanon. This lack of gathered information has prevented the successful strategizing of poverty reduction and a definite increase in the total impoverished.

Assessment of Poverty in Lebanon

The assessment of 2011 estimates poverty in Lebanon to be 27 percent; however, that number is believed to have climbed with the introduction of more refugees to Lebanon. Palestinian refugees were already highly impoverished before the conflict in Syria, with two-thirds qualifying as poor or extremely poor. According to the Palestinian Return Centre:

  • The poverty line was determined as “$6 a day, which allows to cover basic food and non-food requirements of an adult refugee”
  • The extreme poverty line was determined as “$2.17 [which] allows purchasing enough food to satisfy the daily basic food needs of an adult Palestine refugee.”

Many refugees, however, are unable to meet even these minuscule thresholds. In this study of 2011, 65 percent of refugees are considered impoverished, and 6.6 percent are considered extremely impoverished, subsisting on less than $2 a day.

In addition to these statistics, there are a few schisms dividing those in poverty in Lebanon:

  • A staggering 56 percent of refugees in Lebanon are unemployed; in that number, there also exists high gender inequity
  • 65 percent of men are employed
  • Only 13 percent of women are employed 
  • Beirut, Nabatieh and Mount Lebanon have lower rates of poverty and extreme poverty
  • Beirut has 0.67 percent extreme poverty and 5.85 percent of poverty
  • Bekaa, South and North, in contrast, have a much higher rate of poverty
  • North has 17.75 percent extreme poverty and 52.57 percent poverty

In addition to the above, the regional divide data is from before the influx of refugees in Lebanon and has conclusively increased as well. The poverty rates in Lebanon are not dispersed equally among the people, but rather a heavy burden on certain areas and aspects of society.

Rapid Poverty Assessment and Lebanon Crisis Response Plan

The U.N. Refugee Agency reports that in 2018, 58 percent of refugee households now live in extreme poverty, and an overall 76 percent of refugees in Lebanon live below the general poverty line. These statistics continue to climb, but the Rapid Poverty Assessment of the UNDP aims to not only document updated numbers, but to also develop strategies and a plan to increase efforts against rising poverty, especially the rising poverty of refugees in Lebanon.

The Lebanon Crisis Response Plan, while a commendable humanitarian response to the rising issues, will need to actively increase efforts to quite an extent. The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates that another $2.7 billion will be needed to make the plan and approach effectual in implementation in Lebanon.

If the Rapid Poverty Assessment can successfully create a strategy to curb such rising poverty and a highly concentrated focus on the refugees in Lebanon can combine with a greater source of financial aid, then an innumerable amount of lives will be both benefitted, and saved.

– Lydia Lamm

Photo: Flickr