Syrians in Lebanon & Remote working opportunities

A few months ago, Techfugees officially kicked off its local chapter in Lebanon thanks to the commitment of our local ambassador Harout. In his very first interview, he told us that employment was the main challenge faced by the 3 million displaced people hosted in this country. So Harout first project was to run a study about work habits of refugees in Lebanon with a focus on the remote opportunities before starting to develop his own “tech for refugee” solutions through Chapter’s events and programs.
Let’s see what he found out! 📔

Debriefing meeting from the study – August 2019 © Techfugees

The dialogue surrounding refugees in the West can be divisive and even toxic. The raw emotion of the topic is felt even here, separated from the fulcrum by untold miles. So what happens when forcibly displaced people are on your doorstep? Lebanon, population 6.1 million, host 3 million of them, half crossing the border from neighboring Syria.

Faced with the highest number of refugees per capita on Earth, the Lebanese government, goaded by the Free Patriotic Movement, translate slogans like ‘Lebanon above all’ into draconian labor laws making it all but impossible for Syrian refugees to operate legal businesses here.

In this context, 222 Syrian refugees were asked about their employment status, skillsets, and the obstacles they face making a living in Lebanon.

Who was surveyed?

Of those surveyed, 61.7% were male and 38.3% female.

In terms of age, the vast majority is in the prime of their lives:

That’s a total of 81.1% aged 32 or under, which lines up with the level of education represented 👨‍🎓:

Among those with post-secondary educations, a broad range of sectors is represented. 11.3% were educators themselves, a further 11.3% studied business, 8.1% were in linguistics and translation, and 5.9% studied law, to name just a few areas.

Wasting a workforce

The real lessons came when the study digs into the job opportunities open to this young, educated potential workforce:

71.1% possessed either advanced or intermediate English, and when asked to select from a list of marketable skills, the following were represented:

  • Data entry: 32.4%
  • Photography: 25.2%
  • Social media management: 23.9%
  • Content editing: 22.5%
  • Teaching language: 18%
  • Digital marketing: 17.1%
  • General IT: 13.1%
  • Translation: 8.6%
  • Web development: 6.3%
  • Graphic design: 5.4%
  • Software development: 2.7%
  • App development: 2.3%

Now, consider that Lebanese labor law currently allows refugees to work in one of these three sectors only: agriculture, construction, and cleaning. The problem quickly becomes apparent…

The enormity of wasted potential here is another glaring facet of the human catastrophe facing Syrian refugees. With few opportunities in Lebanon, 29.3% of those surveyed were engaged in looking for remote working opportunities.

However, even those looking for a tech-driven solution to their employment situation found themselves lacking in information on the topic. 85.6% of our 222 respondents were unable to name any remote working software which might help them earn a living.

Tech to the rescue

So the main issue is one of awareness since these solutions definitely exist in the marketplace. Products like NaTakallam provide professional translation services and allow refugees to work remotely as language tutors.

TaQadam (2018 winner of the Techfugees’ Employment Global Challenge) and Workaround work with refugees to refine datasets at scale for those working in big data analytics and AI. Meanwhile, Upwork allows refugees to work as freelancers all over the world, in whatever field they’re most experienced.

Similarly, Transformify (2018 Techfugees Global Challenges’ finalist) is a freelancer platform whose Rebuild Lives program connects employers with refugees and those living in post-war zones who could work remotely.

This study highlighted a need to sensibilize refugees about the options they have to work remotely, in Lebanon, in particular, to get round the sensitive political situation.

A narrative of fear and mistrust continues to waste the potential of these young people, people who want to make meaningful contributions to their new communities. To fight this demands an open, collaborative, techno-optimist vision of the future.

Do you want to join Techfugees’ activities achieving these vision in Lebanon and elsewhere?
🙋‍♂️ Become a volunteer!

Are you working on a #tech4refugees project which aims to tech down the borders?
Come work with us and let’s build a better future together 🚀

This post was written by the team at Sookio.

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