The number of Lebanese emigrants under the age of 40 is expected to reach 56,000 by the end of 2019, according to a study by Lebanon-based Information International. The same study said that 34,502 Lebanese have left their country in 2018 and did not return.
While some studies link emigration to the spread of corruption and the looting of public funds, most politicians’ statements bear a warning about the dangers of this phenomenon, not only on the country’s economic and social conditions, but also on the political level, in terms of demographic imbalances.
In a follow-up to the file of Lebanese emigrants, the US Department of State has classified Lebanon since 2011 in the “very high alert” circle. External migration is the most important social issue in the Lebanese society, especially since about 30 percent of its residents are non-Lebanese, a level unknown to any other country.
“The number of Lebanese migrants is normal due to the conditions in their country,” said Haitham Jomaa, the former director-general of the Expatriates Department at the Lebanese Foreign Ministry and the head of the Lebanese Forum for Development and Migration.
In this regard, Jomaa pointed to the lack of employment opportunities in state facilities, the absence of a national plan to direct human resources, and the growth of the number of university graduates in parallel with a decline in the number of institutions in the productive sectors and the closure of companies because of economic recession.
“But this situation might not continue until the end of the year, after the adoption of the state budget and the implementation of the CEDRE recommendations, which will encourage production and hence reduce the pace of emigration,” he added.
Jomaa also explained that political tensions in the region have affected job opportunities in Lebanon, in addition to international sanctions, which he said also curbed the desire for investment and shook the labor market.
Jomaa, on the other hand, underlined the positive aspects of migration. He said that a study carried out in cooperation between the General Directorate of Emigrants, the Saint Joseph University and the United Nations showed that 51 percent of the Lebanese people live on expats’ transfers, 25 percent of which goes to education.
However, Economic Expert Kamel Wazni told Asharq Al-Awsat that the funds transferred to Lebanon were affected by the recent US conditions and sanctions, which prevented remittances from reaching Lebanese banks, sometimes without any legal justification.
He emphasized that expatriation limits the spread of unemployment among the Lebanese youth.
Wazni also pointed to the surplus of highly-educated people in Lebanon, saying: “When the Lebanese University posted a vacancy for a professor who holds a Doctorate in Sciences, 1,500 eligible doctors applied for the position.”