Lebanon News

CAS, ILO launch landmark labor force, living conditions study

Children play in the Hay al-Tanak slum in Tripoli, December 17, 2014. REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim

BEIRUT: Over 40,000 households will soon be surveyed as part of Lebanon’s largest study on labor force and living conditions. The Labor Force and Household Living Conditions Survey, carried out by the Central Administration of Statistics with the technical support of the International Labour Organization and funding from the EU, is set to enter the field work phase, the body announced during a launch event at the Grand Serail Wednesday. It will be the largest such survey carried out in the country’s history.

“In the absence of a modern census, this survey is expected to be the most reliable source of information and analysis on a range of demographic, economic and social characteristics of households, including education, health, employment, amenities and living conditions,” ILO Regional Director for Arab States Ruba Jaradat said.

The absence of any reliable data of this kind is one of the primary driving factors for carrying out a survey of this kind and scale, the ILO’s Francois Farah, who is the lead technical adviser for the study, told The Daily Star.

“We haven’t had a census in Lebanon since 1952,” he said. “If you have a sample of 4,000 or 5,000 households you can only come up with generic, broad figures that give you an indication of the reality, but [this] doesn’t give you a good analysis of the causality: what causes what and at what level.”

“So this is the first time a survey has been carried out with 40,000 households as a representative sample,” he explained.

The more immediate concern necessitating such a survey is the political and economic impact of the war in neighboring Syria and the resulting refugee crisis, Farah said. “If you have a quarter of the population coming from outside, of course it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the labor market and employment opportunities and on all kinds of living conditions, so this survey is a dual survey of living conditions and labor force.”

Following its success in undertaking the first official census of Palestinian refugees, published in December, the survey will be carried out by Lebanon’s Central Administration of Statistics.

Funding is being provided by the EU, although funds have not yet been secured to include Palestinian refugee camps in the survey.

Technical expertise will be provided by the ILO.

Survey operations will be carried out “in accordance with state-of-the-art international statistical definitions and standards, and will therefore carry full credibility and reliability,” according to Jaradat.

The ILO is also implementing projects directly within Lebanon, such as the German-funded Employment Intensive Investment Program, which, she said, “is creating thousands of decent work opportunities for host communities and refugees through infrastructure improvement projects.”

It appears that the survey is intended to facilitate both Lebanese government policymaking and international donor programs. “This survey will help decision-makers inform policy,” Jaradat said. “In order for the government, and even for the donor, to address the challenges we need to know exactly what are the actual numbers ... to make informed decisions.”

As mentioned several times at the launch, the survey will assist Lebanon in implementing the U.N.’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

This diplomatic check-box will be a useful bargaining tool for Lebanese policymakers at upcoming donor conferences in Rome, Paris and Brussels. Donors have been demanding greater transparency for Lebanese projects: EU Ambassador to Lebanon Christina Lassen said Monday that the Lebanese government should formulate “a detailed road map for economic reforms in the limited time available before the conference.”

According to a statement published after the launch, the refugee crisis “has added to pre-existing labor market woes such as unemployment, informality and vulnerability to workplace exploitation.” Jaradat also highlighted the rising problem of child labor in the country.

According to CAS Director-General Maral Tutelian, the survey will “allow us for the first time to provide information on multiple indicators regarding the labor force and living conditions on the district level, as well as on the seasonality of labor.”

Participants will be surveyed on socio-demographic, education and employment characteristics, as well as factors related to their living conditions; they will be queried on health insurance, disability needs and housing characteristics.

The launch of the field work stage of the survey will be accompanied by a media campaign to encourage participation. Field work is scheduled to take place over a year, through four quarterly rounds of nationwide household visits. The quarterly data gathered throughout 2018 will be analyzed and published as soon as it becomes available.

However, while this project is groundbreaking in scale, Jaradat noted there is still much be done to alleviate the crisis in the region. – Additional reporting by Gasia Trtrian

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 01, 2018, on page 3.

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