TECHNICIANS WANTED!

Lebanon 2017 | INDUSTRY | FOCUS: LABOR MARKET

With high rates of overall unemployment and sector-specific shortages, Lebanon needs to align job training with labor market demand, including the demand for technical professionals.

The labor market in Lebanon is in dire need of specialized workers in the arts of cooking, carpentry, heating and cooling, automotive and electrical mechanics, industrial mechanics, and other technical professions, according to a study conducted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on the reality of the Lebanese labor market. Overall, unemployment levels remain high, indicating a mismatch between vacancies and skills.

Unemployment in Lebanon reached 25% in 2016, up from 11% in 2010. Among the 25% of the unemployed, 36% are young Lebanese. Each year, 32,000 new students will enter the labor market, while the market will produce between 12 and 15,000 new jobs. Unemployment rates are 36.1% for university graduates and 21.8% for secondary school graduates. Lebanon must deal with the structural problem in the labor market if the country wishes to regain its leading position in the region.
The competition from Syrian labor in the Lebanese market has angered many, with some believing the state is not protecting their interests and others leaving the country altogether. The Ministry of Labor, responding to concerns, is taking measures to regulate the work of foreigners in Lebanon, protecting the Lebanese labor force from competition and limiting the professions that foreigners and Syrians can work in.
The UNDP study addresses the fact that 41% of the workers do not work in accordance with the skills they enjoy. There are a large number of Lebanese graduates and professionals who failed to find a job within their competencies, and ended up working in restaurants, cafes, or clothing stores. According to an analytical study of the Lebanese labor market conducted by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), there is a discrepancy between the skills and qualifications of the labor force and demand in the market. Among skilled workers, 43% of women hold university degrees compared with 20% of men.
Current labor force qualifications and vacancies are incongruous, and there are even some concerns about future incompatibilities. Oil and gas are coming to Lebanon, and it is important that the increased activity and interest is stimulating students to move toward the specialties needed by the oil industry. Around 200-300 engineers and at least 5,000 technicians and professionals are expected to be absorbed by the oil and gas sector in Lebanon in its early stages. For the private sector, finding highly skilled and technically specialized labor is a difficult challenge given that the oil laws oblige the contractor to hire and employ 80% of their workers from the Lebanese workforce and give them priority in training.
Universities and vocational institutes have already begun to develop new disciplines related to energy, such as petroleum geology, chemical engineering, petroleum engineering, and a master's program in gas and petroleum. Also, every student who has completed two academic years in biochemistry, chemistry, or biology is entitled to join CNAM University to complete three years of study, after which she or he receives an engineering degree.
The GIZ study identifies other sectors in Lebanon that have the potential to absorb a larger proportion of the labor force, such as the agricultural sector, construction and real estate, transport and logistics, banking and financial services, tourism and hospitality, health, ICT, green and renewable energy, and waste recycling. The GIZ study indicates that these sectors are responsible for 50% of GDP and currently employ 50% of the labor force.