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Companies replacing their Lebanese employees with displaced workers while the Ministry of Labor attempts to take action


As Safir newspaper published a report last week about the soaring unemployment rate in Lebanon despite the absence of accurate statistics from the Ministry of Labor.  The report noted that unemployment continues to increase with clear signs that companies are generally laying off their Lebanese employees, while in some sectors companies are now only employing foreign displaced workers.  The Minister of Labour Selim Jreissati told As Safir that a large number of companies are undertaking illegal lay offs mostly in labour intensive activities, construction, glass factories, vehicle repair workshops, restaurants and cafes where employers prefer to hire foreign workers to Lebanese in view of their low salaries and this particularly the Bekaa.
Jreissati added that his Ministry has deployed an investigation commission assigned to the ministerial committee mandated with the issue of the displaced in order to monitor what is going on.  He reiterated that his ministry will hold employers accountable in case of irregularities and will impose strict financial penalties in addition to withdrawing their licenses.  For its part, Ghassan Ghosn, head of the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers (CGTL), noted that displaced people have the rights to be cared for by the international community through its international institutions, particularly so since Lebanon does not have the capacity to support them.  He added that the government needs to regulate displacement not only at the economic level but also in terms of the security situation which has now reached dangerous levels and that is harmful to the displaced population as well.
The report further noted, according to Ghosn, that Lebanon needs to create annually 25000 new employment opportunities for young people and graduates.  However, Ghosn stated that only 5 to 6000 jobs are available every year.  As a result, he explained, Jreissati issued a law in February 2013 which ring-fence many jobs so that they become only available to Lebanese nationals such as in the fields of administration, accounting, brokerage, insurance, architecture, jewelry making as well as free professions and this unless a foreign worker is able to secure a work permit from the relevant authorities. To be noted that although this law gives employment priorities to Lebanese, however, it still allow Palestinians born in Lebanon and registered at the Ministry of Interior to carry out some of these jobs.
In the same vein, Syrian workers are also partially dispensed from the restrictions in a number of professions namely tile work, plastering, woodwork, electrical installations, painting, commercial representatives, tailoring, warehouse managers as well as guards in addition to car repairs, and upholstering.
Source: Al-Safir 17 September 2013

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