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Lebanon: Merchants Complain About Shortage in Lebanese Labor Force, Fear Bankruptcy

Lebanon: Merchants Complain About Shortage in Lebanese Labor Force, Fear Bankruptcy

Saturday, 20 July, 2019 - 08:45
File photo-- Worker at a Lebanese restaurant (AFP)
Beirut - Paula Astih
The main street of Dora on Friday was not the same as it was one month ago when the Beirut suburb was filled with pedestrians and shoppers.

Today, this street is empty, similar to a large number of shops spread in this commercial and residential zone, which is considered the main destination for low-income and poor Lebanese, in addition to foreign workers.

This new scenery is mainly due to the last measures enforced by the Labor Ministry as part of its “Combating illegal foreign workers” campaign, which mainly targeted Syrian workers, who in their majority are working in Lebanon without permits.

Bassem, the director of a restaurant in Dora, told Asharq Al-Awsat that business has dropped 50 percent since the Ministry enforced its new measures because the majority of foreign workers, who particularly visited the street during the weekend, are not coming anymore in fear of being caught by the security apparatuses for lacking legal papers.

As part of the new measures, “Lebanese institutions cannot exclusively employ foreign workers but should respect a new quota, which stipulates that they employ only one foreigner in return of 3 Lebanese,” sources from the Labor Ministry told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday.

Printed papers are spread over windows of Dora’s shops in demand of employing Lebanese workers.

However, shop owners complain that no Lebanese had applied for the available jobs.

Samir, 66, the owner of a clothing shop, told Asharq Al-Awsat that he exchanged one of his Syrian employees with a Lebanese, who quickly left the job because he asked her to clean the shop and to work on Sundays and take a day off during the week.

Several sources predict there are around 800,000 Syrian workers in Lebanon, whereas only 2356 had received a working permit from the Labor Ministry. Also, those sources assume that around 65,000 Palestinian refugees work in Lebanon with only 1096 with a working permit.

Lately, the cries of bakery owners were louder due to the measures enforced by the Labor Ministry. Those owners even threatened to increase the price of bread.

The head of the Association of Bakeries in Lebanon, Kazem Ibrahim, announced that Lebanese are not willing to work in bakeries due to the difficult conditions this job requires.

He said that a list of demands requested by the Labor Ministry for employing foreign workers would impose additional financial burdens on bakery owners and therefore, would highly increase the price of bread.

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