Experts warn Lebanon’s brain drain could further dent national economy

BEIRUT – Lebanese experts have warned that the national economy could be further bruised by the growing trend of youth leaving the homeland who want to tide through the unprecedented financial crisis in the country.

Information International, a research center in Lebanon, estimates on Nov 3. that a total of 875,000 people to leave the country between 2019 and 2022, compared to 600,000 between 1992 and 2018.

A negative effect of such a brain drain is that the Lebanese economy increasingly relies on remittances rather than having the ability to boost productivity and expand job opportunities for young people, said Farah al-Shami, a Beirut-based research fellow at the Arab Reform Initiative, a network of independent Arab research and policy institutes.

The human capital flight is exhibited across age groups and professions, with skilled workers such as doctors and professors the biggest threats, said al-Shami.

“The people who are leaving have the knowledge and skills, so when the economy reestablishes itself, we will sense that we are short on human capital; we will experience a slowdown in economic growth and recovery,” she said.

Lebanon’s steep financial crisis and the local currency collapse pushed around 80 percent of the population into poverty, encouraging young graduates and professionals to leave the country in search of better opportunities and salaries in foreign currency.

A study conducted between 2020 and 2021 by Arab Barometer, a central resource for quantitative research on the Middle East, reported as many as 48 percent of Lebanese citizens are seeking to leave their homeland for better opportunities abroad.

It added that Lebanon is at risk for brain drain, with 61 percent of those with a college education wanting to emigrate compared with 37 percent of those with a secondary degree or less.

Ayman Omar, director of the Ishraq Center for Studies and an economist, said the health and education sectors “were emptied of their skilled workers,” warning that a hemorrhage essential of highly qualified workers can limit national development and progress, and subsequent low economic activity can further strip Lebanon off its comparative advantage.

While remittance by overseas Lebanese workers is a key source of foreign currency inflow, “these dollars will be recorded in the balance of payments on the import side and not on the revenues side,” Omar explained, adding that these can’t be counted as foreign capital generated through investment projects.

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