Reportaj Daily Star.
20,000 educated Lebanese leave per year
UNDP report warns exodus contributes to crippling ‘brain drain’
By Patrick Galey
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
BEIRUT: “Staggering numbers” of highly skilled graduates are leaving Lebanon each year, severely hampering economic growth, according to new research.
Data published Tuesday in conjunction with the United Nations Development Program’s latest Human Development Report shows an annual migration of roughly 20,000 Lebanese, the majority of which are well-educated. This contributes to a crippling “brain drain,” and strains the national workforce, according to economic and social policy experts.
More than two-thirds of male and 45 percent of female university graduates opt to work abroad – a worrying trend according to assistant professor of economics at American University Beirut, Jad Chaaban.
“Most Lebanese migrants are highly skilled. Many of them are medical or engineering students and a significant proportion of those studying now – more than a third – say they want to leave,” he said. “These are not nice figures.”
Nearly 30 percent of emigrants head for the Gulf states with the US and Australia also hosting several thousand Lebanese expatriates.
The UNDP report, “Overcoming barriers: human mobility and development,” was launched on Tuesday under the auspices of Marta Ruedas, the UN deputy special coordinator for Lebanon.
It contained 2009 rankings tables for levels of human development in individual countries. It ranked Lebanon as the 83rd most desirable place to live based on life expectancy, access to education and quality of life – a fall of five places since 2006.
In spite of what Ruedas termed a recent “overall positive trend” of human development, Lebanon has struggled to keep up with countries at similar stages of maturity.
“What is not so positive is that the rank of Lebanon has gone down. This means that Lebanon, in a comparative scheme, is going forward at a slower rate,” she said.
As for migration, Lebanon still struggles to keep its most talented individuals at home.
Chaaban pointed to domestic “push factors” which prompt young people to leave, which include political instability, the high cost of living within Lebanon and “cumbersome” legislation which discourages entrepreneurialism.
In addition, higher salaries and more rewarding working environments in adopted countries pull Lebanese workers to more attractive job packages abroad.
Almost 40 percent of the world’s migrants are from the Middle East and North Africa Region.
“Migration in this region is something that we really need to take a look at. There are positives and negatives,” said Ruedas.