This week, Lebanese President Michel Aoun stated that the unemployment rate in Lebanon has soared to a staggering 46 percent and attributed this high figure to the "grave economic situation and presence of Syrian refugees."
During the meeting with a delegation from the Lebanese Press Syndicate at Baabda’s presidential palace, President Aoun made a correlation between Lebanese people being rather selective about choosing which jobs to take on and Syrians accepting work at low wages.
However, the question on many people's mind is whether that shocking figure is true indeed or at least backed up by any research?
According to a report by LBC that was published in May 2017, 25 percent of the Lebanese labor force are unemployed. Officially, however, the rate is announced at only 10 percent.
Unemployment in Lebanon has been an issue for a long time
Many are quick to put the blame on the Syrian refugee crisis but official figures prove that unemployment has been an issue well before the uprising in Syria even began in 2011.
According to the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, 21 percent of the Arab youth in Lebanon is unemployed.
Another study by the International Labor Organization (ILO) showed that in 2017 the youth unemployment rate for individuals aged between 15-24 was at 21.8 percent.
The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has officially decreased
President Aoun also claimed that the number of Syrian refugees in the country had reached 1.86 million.
However, according to official figures from the United Nations, as of December 2017, the number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon had dropped to below one million for the first time since 2014.
In addition, according to UNHCR spokeswoman Lisa Abou Khaled, the sharp decrease in that number is mostly due to refugees resettling in third countries, returning to their homes in Syria or dying.
"Today, the United Nations thanks us for our humanity in dealing with the Syrian refugees," Aoun said, but quickly followed up by stating that compliments aren't enough.
"You have to resolve the refugee case before we ourselves become refugees," he added.
Unemployment in the Arab world
Figures from the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey showed a worrying 9 percent overall increase in youth unemployment from 2016 to 2017.
In Saudi Arabia, unemployment rose more than 1 percent in 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, according to official data.
The kingdom's unemployment rate reached 12.7 percent in 2017, with over 900,000 Saudis now seeking jobs.
With only 1.5 percent of the youth being unemployed, Qatar boasts the lowest youth unemployment rate in any Arab country.
The highest number, a staggering 49 percent, belongs to Libya, where almost half of the country's youth remains unemployed.
Palestine and Egypt follow with unemployment rates at 43 percent and 42 percent respectively.