Lebanon is facing an unemployment crisis — earlier this month the country’s former caretaker Labour Minister Lamia Yammine said nearly half of the country’s population was out of work.
Jobs for Lebanon’s qualified are scarce. Every day, the queues outside of General Security’s passport office grow as thousands prepare to leave. Yet despite the odds being stacked against him, one law student has stepped in to try to stem the flow.
LEBridge is a recruitment agency with a difference. It was founded by Tarek Eid, a third-year law student at the London School of Economics, who is trying to convince international employers to hire Lebanese, but says the initiative is about far more than that.
“Finding a job and searching for a job is sometimes dreadful and lonely,” he says.
Mr Eid said LEBridge is as much a counselling and support service as it is a recruitment agency. The Lebanese don't just need jobs, they need the mental support for dealing with a crisis which the UN has declared one of the worst in the world since the 1800s.
“We want to be here every step of the way and provide really personal counselling. There is a human touch that we are trying to implement.”
The initiative guides candidates through the recruitment process with the help of 10 human resources professionals. It has more than 150 jobs currently posted on its job board in everything from accountancy and sales to graphic design. Many of the jobs can be done freelance from within Lebanon but for international salary.
Many of the positions are with companies run by Lebanese professional who have left Lebanon, but our desperate to do something that might help back home –recruitment is the unlikely answer.
Since starting operations in January, LEBridge has advised more than 300 people on job searches and expanded its team to 20 volunteers, including 10 counselors, all without having spent a dollar. Though they do not track the exact figure of how many people they have placed in positions, Mr Eid stresses that the benefits go way beyond the individual being hired.
“One Lebanese hire is help for the whole family,” he said, referring to the fact that many Lebanese families are supported by at least one family member who earns aboard, or is employed in Lebanon by a foreign company.
These remittances, which reached in 37 per cent of GDP in 2020, according to the Secretary General of the Union of Arab Banks, have been a lifeline for thousands of Lebanese families.
Mr Eid highlights two key advantages of Lebanese candidates: the amount many have already invested in education and qualifications, and their multilingualism.
“Most of these people have a bachelor's degree and a lot of the time masters degrees and even PhDs,” he says. “They spent a lot of money, a lot of time on their education in Lebanon. And they find themselves unemployed today.
“Most of the people are fluent in English, French and Arabic. There's always a minimum of two languages.”
The agency is trying to link up the country’s growing unemployed with foreign businesses, encouraging them to pay in dollars, helping individual families and the ailing economy at the same time.
Like many of his compatriots, the powerlessness of the Lebanese people is a clear frustration for Mr Eid, but he says if Lebanon is to have a bright future, it is likely that some of those thousands to have left amid the brain drain will play a role.
“I think that today, you have more power contributing to the reconstruction of Lebanon from outside than from the inside,” he says.
“We need people on the inside, we need those people working on the politics side and the economic sides, but people outside first of all make more money than they can then use to the benefit of their country.”
“People outside gain a level of exposure and experience that they wouldn't gain in Lebanon today, nor in the next 10 years.”
There is hope amid the brain drain, he says. Every person leaving the country is making a potential investment that one day they may return with the wealth and knowledge to rebuild the country.
“I hope they will come back to Lebanon someday and help rebuild in their own sectors,” he says.