The Lebanese Economic Crisis and its Effects on Youth

It is no secret that Lebanon has been facing one of the worst economic crises in recent history, with the country’s GDP plummeting from about 55 billion US dollars in 2018 to 20 billion US dollars in 2021.

This economic decay coupled with significant political factors resulted in the lack of medical supplies, extreme currency devaluation, and constant fluctuation of fuel prices in addition to other basic commodities. In the light of this unprecedented crisis, a recent survey conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation has highlighted that youth are among the worst affected groups by the current situation. Therefore, it is crucial to take an in depth look at the impact of the current crisis on younger generations.

The findings of the recent FES MENA Youth Study demonstrate the severity of the situation. In fact, the analysis of the survey results from Lebanon by Michel Douaihy finds that many young people considered their personal economic situation to be “rather bad, at the very least, with this share being slightly higher for male than for female’s respondents”. Moreover, these findings vary not only based on the gender of respondents but also on their level of education “with the majority of those with low levels of education considering their personal economic situation to be rather bad, at the very least, which was slightly higher than those with middle to high levels of education”. It is crucial to note, however, that youth are also facing many hardships in pursuing their education degrees as the country’s leading universities (mainly private institutions) have increased their tuition fees to unprecedented levels, forcing many students to drop out. Furthermore, those who have opted for more affordable alternatives have also encountered difficulties as public educational institutions possess their own share of sufferings.

Aiming to achieve a sense of financial security, many Lebanese citizens, particularly young people, have taken on multiple jobs and are relying on various sources of income. Today, students in Lebanon, both at the university and even at the school level, are juggling both work and studies, often taking on more than one job at a time. Due to the insufficiency of wages and its inability to cover basic needs, diversifying income has become a necessity. However, despite working several jobs, according to the FES MENA Youth Study “86% of youth” still find themselves unable to save money. The study highlights three sources of income for youth: their own employment, financial support from family members, or scholarships related to their studies. The origin of these sources sheds light on the prevailing economic and social power dynamics in Lebanese society. From a gender perspective, male respondents overwhelmingly cite their own employment as their primary source of income, while female respondents mainly rely on their families for financial assistance, indicating a greater level of dependency and vulnerability. 

After assessing the overall economic situation and the hardships that the younger generation are facing, let us discuss the topic in a more in-depth analytical perspective: Are the challenges facing youth today purely related to the economic situation in the country? Or is it also related to the Labor Market Structure? Are there any similarities between the Labor Market structure and the political system’s structure? What about the Cultural Aspect and its Influence on Youth Decision Making?

A Shaken Labor Market Structure

The labor market in Lebanon has been characterized by informality, instability, low employment rate, shortage of available jobs, brain drain, unfair and unequal pay, occupational segregation and mismatch of skills. In the light of the current economic crisis, the Lebanese Labor market is facing significant challenges that are very much interconnected with the country’s political turmoil. In fact, the governmental systems structure in Lebanon has been characterized by deterioration, instability, corruption and mismanagement which is very similar to the Labor Market Structure which has been extremely shaken over the past few years.

Moreover, youth are amongst the most “exploited” by labor structures in the country. Many working youth report to not have signed work contracts, with this number being higher among female workers. Furthermore, child labor violence has been recorded as a prominent issue among working children with the constant absence of safety and accountability measures. In addition, most youth are suffering from poor working conditions. Overall, the situation of youth in the labor market has been alarming, especially during the recent years. Younger working generations have been facing exploitation, violence and are holding so much responsibility at a young age which is taking a toll on their mental health.

Moreover, youth have also been the most affected by the market’s instability. In 2018, a report by the Central Administration of Statistics (CAS) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that “youth (15-24 years old) unemployment rate in Lebanon stood at 23%, double the national unemployment rate of 11.4%”[1]. In 2022, an updated survey showed that youth unemployment increased to “47.8% compared to a national unemployment rate of 29.6%”.[2] The former data highlights the unfortunate reality that Lebanese youth are living today. High unemployment rates, daily economic struggles and social uncertainty have, indeed, tremendously affected the livelihoods of the Lebanese younger generation. Today, youth find themselves in a long-lasting cycle, they are not able to advance or even build their own careers. Younger generations have lost the freedom to choose or switch between different jobs. Moreover, youth are less likely accepting to engage in unpaid internships which can be significant and beneficial to their career growth and orientation. The current situation is drastically affecting the majority of aspiring young people who are following the recent “norm” of changing their career paths to seek fast and available income instead of pursuing their passion and dream jobs. It is necessary to note that access to job opportunities in Lebanon has been heavily reliant on connections and in many cases on clientelism, highlighting higher political and social dependency (as youth become more dependent on political leaders, friends or families that helped them get the job).    

Cultural Aspect

The social perception of jobs in the market dates back to many years and is still affecting youth’s decisions in pursuing jobs (drawing a line between Jobs that are “socially acceptable” vs those “who are not socially acceptable”). I remember when I publicly expressed my intention of pursuing a Bachelors in Political Science and International affairs. I still remember the faces of my family members and neighbors until this day. They were pretty much shocked: “You want to pursue what?”. In our society, it’s either you are a lawyer, doctor, engineer or nothing!

 In Lebanon, culture, in its patriarchal, classist and discriminatory aspect plays an important role in influencing youth’s career choices. This social paradigm, has indeed, paralyzed the labor market as the gap between job demands, availability, opportunities and skills has been enlarging. Thus, there has been an increasing need to spread awareness on the importance of career orientation for youth and the significance of having diverse jobs.


Overall, the younger generation is facing many hardships. The economic situation, cultural influences and the shaken labor market structure, are tremendously impacting youth’s career decisions and livelihoods. The mental health of young people in Lebanon is deteriorating. An increase rate of youth isolation, anxiety and depression is being recorded. Many talented youths are leaving the country for good while others remain stuck, uncertain and lost. On a brighter side, many young people have taken the initiative to start small businesses, but will these businesses sustain in such a volatile environment?

In a nutshell, it has been evident that the current economic crisis played a large role in shaping youth’s situation. However, this economic crisis was the result of many years of mismanagement and weak governmental institutions structure. Similarly, the challenges faced by youth today are not only related to the former factors but also to the lack of orientation and accurate assessment of the needs and opportunities in the Labor Market. Therefore, the pressing need to conduct a comprehensive and detailed assessment of the Labor Market and an increased awareness on the importance of providing youth with the right career orientation amidst the current economic crisis.

To read the fill study and know more about the regional FES MENA Youth Study project: https://mena.fes.de/topics/youth-study


[1] UNDP, “Lebanon's youth: Barriers for growth and unfolding opportunities”, 2022 ,https://www.undp.org.

[2] Ibid.