The Cradle
Lebanon unemployment rate triples: Survey
A UN agency said the informal economy accounted for around 30 percent of employment
By News Desk - May 12 2022
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People queue to buy bread outside a bakery in Beirut, Lebanon April 12, 2022. (Photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)

The official unemployment rate in Lebanon skyrocketed to almost 30 percent at the start of the year, according to a joint survey by the UN and the Lebanese government released on 12 May.

The survey was released by Lebanon’s Central Administration of Statistics (ACS) and the International Labour Organization.

According to the data updated via a survey of 5,444 households “residing” throughout the country (22,046 people), the unemployment rate at the national level concerning the working population stands at 29.6 percent.

The survey was conducted between 27 December and 31 January. Lebanese nationals represent 80 percent of the sample, while the remaining 20 percent are foreign nationals.

Among other key findings, the proportion of unemployed young workers aged 15 to 24 peaked at 47.8 percent in early 2022, more than double the rate in 2020 (23.3 percent). This category has the highest intention to leave the country at 69 percent, followed closely by residents aged 25 to 44, who are 66 percent likely to leave.

Worse, those who are employed are not necessarily in an ideal situation either.

The ACS reveals that as many as 62.4 percent of residents work informally. This proportion increased by 7.5 points compared to 2018-2019. Meanwhile, 48.3 percent of residents work in an unregulated or illegal sector, a jump of 13.1 points from the previous results.

The economy of Lebanon has been in freefall since 2019, crushed by a crisis so severe that the World Bank has described it as the world’s worst in 150 years.

The UN has accused Lebanon’s government and central bank of “human rights violations” for creating the conditions for an acute economic crisis that has plunged over 80 percent of the population below the poverty line.

“The Lebanese State, including its Central Bank, is responsible for human rights violations, including the unnecessary immiseration of the population, that have resulted from this man-made crisis,” the UN report, released on 11 May, reads.

Lebanon’s economic implosion has also seen its local currency lose more than 90 percent of its value, and food prices increase elevenfold. The economic situation has also exacerbated a crippling energy crisis, with blackouts that can last for up to 23 hours a day.

On 27 April, Lebanon’s Economy Minister Amin Salam revealed that the country’s efforts to secure $3 billion in International Monetary Fund (IMF) support could be undermined by divisions over how to deal with massive losses in the financial sector, according to sources who spoke with Reuters.

On 7 April, Lebanon reached an agreement with the IMF on a set of economic reforms that could result in a $3 billion grant to aid the crisis-hit nation.

The reforms include the restructuring of the country’s banking sector, including reforms within the Central Bank itself, and the stabilization of the Lebanese pound’s fluctuating exchange rates.