Labour Market Information Review and Analysis: In-focus on Northern Lebanon
ES.1 Introduction and methodology
This study was conducted within the framework of the International Labour Organization (ILO) project “Enabling job resilience and protecting decent work conditions in rural communities affected by the Syrian refugee crisis in Northern Lebanon”. The project’s goal is to generate employment through local economic development and sustainable enterprises. An immediate objective of the project, related to the current study on the labour market, is to enhance access to employment and livelihood opportunities. The purpose of this study is to collect and analyse labour market information and services provided by different organizations across Lebanon, but particularly North Lebanon. The information presented here should serve as a useful reference on the status of the labour market for jobseekers, employers, education personnel, trainers, researchers and government institutions. The study also makes recommendations on gaps in information, updating information products, and labour market policies and policy briefs.
Desk and fieldwork was carried out. The desk work consisted of collecting labour market data from official statistics, reports and studies produced by national and international organizations, and data from administrative systems. Data on the demand for skills (vacancies) were gathered from announcements and advertisements made in a number of magazines, newspapers and websites.
The fieldwork consisted of in-depth interviews with representatives of major organizations operating in the North, as well as employers’ organizations, trade unions, and relevant government agencies. Additionally, two focus groups were conducted in the North with large, medium-sized and small enterprises.
ES.2 General characteristics of the labour market in Lebanon and North Lebanon
The analysis of the labour market in Lebanon and North Lebanon includes the characteristics of the Syrian and Palestinian labour forces. Of the total population of Lebanon, those aged 15–29 years constitute more than a quarter, while 47.6 per cent of the working age population (15 years and above) are economically active (2009 data, CAS multiple indicators cluster survey). Around 43 per cent are employed in the country, compared with 41.2 per cent in North Lebanon, while the percentage of women who work in Lebanon is very low (19.7 per cent) compared with men (67.8 per cent). Youth unemployment is much higher in North Lebanon than in the country as a whole. Most people are employed within the service sector in Lebanon and in the North. The employment rate in the agricultural sector is larger in the North (10.5 per cent of total employed) than across the whole of Lebanon (6.3 per cent). Most jobs are in the private sector, but in the North a higher percentage is employed by the public sector.
The labour market has been affected by the influx of Syrian refugees. A field survey conducted recently by the ILO on a sample of 400 Syrian refugee households in Lebanon indicates that slightly less than half of the Syrian refugees are economically active, with unemployment estimated at 30 per cent. Those who work are employed mainly in three sectors: agricultural activities (24 per cent), domestic or personal services (27 per cent), and construction (12 per cent). The study reveals that 45 per cent of Syrian refugee workers work in unskilled jobs, and around 43 per cent work in semi-skilled jobs.
As to the Palestinian labour force, the economic activity rate for Palestinians in 2011 was 42 per cent. Almost half of the Palestinian workers are employed outside the camps, while around one-quarter work in the camps. The remaining workers are mostly active in and around the camps. In Tripoli, however, a significantly higher share of workers (43 per cent) work inside the camps. In general, the Palestinian labour force shares similar characteristics with the Lebanese in terms of activity rate, sector, employment status, occupation and industry. Most Palestinian workers are engaged in low-status jobs concentrated in commerce (26 per cent of Palestinian workers) and construction (24 per cent), but only 2 per cent are in the hotel and restaurant sector, and 3 per cent in agriculture.
ES.3 Labour supply and the role of the education system in the provision of careers services
Labour supply consists of new entrants to the labour market, comprising students and graduates from universities, vocational and technical education (VTE) establishments, and schools. An unusual feature of the Lebanese labour market is that supply is not only directed towards the local market but rather towards the region, particularly in the Gulf countries.
University graduates constitute an important source of labour supply. Around 80 per cent of students are concentrated in the following major fields of study: business and services; humanities, social sciences and law; and physical sciences and engineering. Some private universities provide careers services as part of the orientation services offered to students; recently the Lebanese University started a careers service with the support of the European Union. VTE is carried out by both the public and private sectors, the latter contributing to almost 75 per cent of the total number of students. A quarter of VTE students are from North Lebanon. The Technical Baccalaureate Diploma (Baccalauréat Technique, BT) certificate attracts the majority of students in Lebanon (57.8 per cent).
ES.4 Labour market in selected economic sectors and the demand for workers
The labour market and demand for workers in five economic sectors – construction, agriculture, trade, services and industry – are analysed on the basis of a review of recent studies and reports, as well as the findings of two focus groups conducted in North Lebanon – one with agro-food companies and the other with industrial firms, trades and services.
Construction sector: As a result of the Syrian crisis, this sector recorded a significant decline in 2012 in the North, where new projects shrank by 72 per cent compared with 2010. Contractors started to replace Lebanese workers with lower-wage Syrians. The skills in highest demand are in plumbing and electricity.
Agricultural sector: The agricultural sector in Akkar has been severely affected by the Syrian crisis and by the difficulties of exporting to Gulf countries through Syria. As a result of the Syrian crisis, farmers are reluctant to either increase production or expand their workforce. Furthermore, the possibility of cultivating more land in Akkar is limited, thus reducing opportunities for expanding production and employment unless mixed diversifications within value chains are matched to create a range of new options.
Service sector: Emphasis in this sector is placed on hospitality and restaurants, as well as on related providers that offer services to the sector (e.g., cleaning services, security services and fuel providers). A survey carried out by the National Employment Office (NEO) in 2010 revealed that most workers in this sector were, prior to the crisis, Lebanese, with Syrians comprising about 6 per cent of total employees. The influx of Syrian refugees into the service sector has resulted in increased competition for work, with a relatively low reliance on VTE graduates entering the labour force. The reduction in tourism and the unpredictable security situation in Lebanon constitute major constraints for expansion.
Industrial sector: The findings of a survey on the demand for technicians in a sample of 100 industrial enterprises in Mount Lebanon, Jezzine and Tyre are presented in the study. It shows that almost 50 per cent of industrial enterprises recruit VTE graduates, but only 40 per cent of enterprises are able to find technicians. The study reveals that enterprises are mainly interested in BT graduates, and that VTE graduates are often employed as labourers.
Demand for labour in selected sectors: Two focus groups were conducted with agro-food producers and employers representing various economic sectors (trade, construction, furniture, and health care) in North Lebanon. Enterprises complained that most of the newly appointed employees treated their positions as a temporary situation until a new opportunity came up, whereupon they would leave for a better package, usually abroad. Enterprises voiced their frustration in finding qualified people with managerial skills, including those related to human resource management, as well as specific technical skills required for the food industry. The demand for technical skills, such as information technology (IT) and electro-mechanics, was high, especially among technologically advanced industries.
ES.5.1 Mapping of major organizations providing employment services in North Lebanon
In Lebanon, there are numerous organizations and agencies (public and private) that provide employment services. A list of 14 organizations and 7 private recruitment agencies in North Lebanon and other regions was drawn. Out of this list, 11 organizations that provide employment services in the North were interviewed. They consisted of four categories: (1) livelihood service centres; (2) job matching; (3) development and job creation; and (4) self-employment. These organizations provide various employment services targeting Lebanese as well as refuge populations, youth, women, and people with disabilities. Services included life skills, technical training programmes, career counselling, as well as targeted programmes to address youth unemployment and women empowerment.
ES.5.2 Analysis of employment data of employment service centres
Within the framework of this assessment, the ILO requested all organizations operating employment service centres, in addition to those providing labour market information, to provide administrative data available in their systems during the period October 2013 to October 2014, in order to have a better understanding of the labour market needs and job opportunities. The data will serve as a reference point on the status of the labour market, and help identify gaps in information provision. The data are analysed under six main categories: jobseekers registered at employment centres; jobseekers that are referred to vacancies; jobseekers that are referred and employed; jobseekers that are referred to vocational training; job vacancies collected; and job vacancies filled. Analysis reveals that the data are not harmonized or consistent across organizations. Moreover, the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO) and International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities (ISIC) coding systems are not adopted by all organizations, nor are they consistent across categories.
ES.5.3 Information gaps
There are large gaps in labour market information. Labour market data and figures are outdated, the most recent being the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) published by the Central Administration of Statistics (CAS) in 2009. With the exception of NEO and FORAS, most of the organizations interviewed provide employment services neither as core activities nor consistently to their beneficiaries. The World Bank, ILO and UNDP are the major organizations that publish studies and labour market statistics at the national level. Labour market information is not easily accessible nor widely available for those organizations interviewed. The difficulty is greater for subnational data. For example, few statistics are available on unemployment and the labour market in the northern regions. Moreover, international organizations do not publish on a regular basis, nor update their information regularly. Information is not centralized, consistent nor updated. CAS publishes information, but it is not always relevant to the organizations interviewed.
ES.6 Demand for workers: Analysis of job vacancies
A total of 2,791 job vacancies covering Beirut, Mount Lebanon and North Lebanon were collected from local newspapers and websites between December 2014 and February 2015. Vacancies related to North Lebanon accounted for only 12.5 per cent of total vacancies. The vacancies were classified according to the ILO International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO-08) at the two-digit level.
A total of 848 jobs were announced by the public sector. Teaching jobs accounted for 79.3 per cent of total vacancies announced by the public sector, a third allocated for North Lebanon. The private sector called for mainly business and administration professionals, particularly accountants, information and communication technology (ICT) professionals, and service and sales workers. A total of 188 vacancies in NGOs and international organizations were recorded on the Daleel Madani website. Most (75 per cent) were for professionals, particularly in business and administration, and legal, social and cultural roles.
ES.7 Conclusions and recommendations
There is high demand for technicians in Lebanon, particularly in the North. The skills in highest demand are in plumbing and electricity, IT, electro-mechanics, advanced car mechanics, and specific technical skills required for the food industry, including quality assurance, as well as chefs and waiters in the hospitality industry. There is also a demand for artisan skills in the furniture sector. Those who have expertise prefer to work in the Gulf region, where remuneration is much higher than in Lebanon. Most enterprises, particularly the large ones, are interested in recruiting technicians with BT diplomas. Industrial enterprises, however, underline the need for VTE graduates to learn and practise on the job. Firms have difficulty finding qualified people with managerial skills, including those related to human resource management. There is high demand for professionals, particularly in business and administration (accountants in particular), as well as for ICT professionals. Despite the presence of recruitment agencies and Internet job search platforms, most skilled and unskilled labourers find jobs through informal networks and personal connections.
There are a number of challenges that are hindering employment in the North and affecting the region as a whole. Among the major challenges facing organizations are the worsening security situation, fragmented collaboration and coordination among organizations, and lack of labour law application and enforcement.
As a result of the study, the following recommendations are presented:
(1) Provide consistent and accurate labour market data.
(2) Establish a coordination and referral mechanism among organizations.
(3) Develop close linkages between the VTE sphere and the business sphere.
(4) Promote investment in agricultural and economic sectors that are viable for the region.
(5) Create expertise in newly emerging fields such as welding and sailing.
(6) In order to generate employment for vulnerable communities, design a clear labour market strategy that is sustainable and has the potential to be implemented in the North.
(7) Focus on creating opportunities for small business development.
(8) Focus on sectors with potential growth and demand for labour.
(9) Build synergies among ministries to harmonize strategies that accelerate growth and organization of the labour market.
(10) Ensure enforcement of labour law.