The head of Lebanon’s General Labor Union, Bechara Al-Asmar, said that contract workers were severely hit by the repercussions of the Covid-19 lockdowns and the deteriorating economic situation.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Asmar noted that there were around 120,000 contract workers who are hired by state institutions, such as the state-owned power company (EDL), who depend in their living on their daily income.
He said most contract workers earn no more than LBP 50,000 per day, that is, USD 33 on the official exchange rate, and USD 6 on the current black market rate, “making them mainly among the poorest groups in society, especially after the economic crisis.”
In addition, Asmar said that they do not receive social benefits, health care and end-of-service indemnities, which makes them a vulnerable group that should be protected.
Moreover, this category was not included in the government’s strategy to combat the coronavirus pandemic, as no special aid was earmarked for it, according to Asmar, who said that some of its members benefited from the National Program for Social Solidarity that was launched by the Ministry of Social Affairs last April.
The project ended with the distribution of LBP 400,000 through the Lebanese army to 200 families in need, based on data submitted by several ministries, including the Ministry of Social Affairs.
With the new full lockdown that came into force last week, caretaker Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni instructed to pay LBP 75 billion in treasury advance to the High Relief Commission, in implementation of the social plan aimed at helping families suffering from severe living conditions. The amount is supposed to benefit about 250,000 families, who will receive LBP 400,000 each.
This amount is less than the minimum wage set at LBP 675,000, in addition to the fact that purchasing power has decreased by 80 percent due to the collapse of the national currency and the high inflation rate.
The total number of poor Lebanese now exceeds 2.7 million people, according to the highest poverty line (the number of people who live on less than USD 14 a day), revealed a study released by the United Nations Social and Economic Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
The study indicated that the percentage of the poor in Lebanon doubled to reach 55 percent in 2020, after it was 28 percent in 2019, while the percentage of people suffering from extreme poverty increased from 8 to 23 percent during the same period.