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Azzi on Labor: Unemployment hiked by 25% but work permits to foreigners only when in shortage

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Labor Minister Sajaan Azzi voiced his regret that many private educational institutes, particularly universities, were hiring foreign faculty members instead of Lebanese teachers. Speaking to Al Diyar daily, Azzi pointed out that unemployment has increased by 346,000 people with the influx from Syria, according to recent International Labor Organization estimates. He insisted that his Ministry has stopped issuing work permits to foreigners, including Syrians, except in sectors where there are shortages in Lebanese workforce. Azzi noted that enterprises not observing Labor Ministry decisions and recruiting foreign workers, namely Syrians, are doing so to evade payment of the normal salaries. As to the education sector, the Minister went on to say: “We are not against cultural and academic interaction nor against recruiting non-Lebanese university professors, however, they have to observe a certain ratio.” He revealed that some 250 foreign professors are currently hired at the American University of Beirut and some 126 Egyptians at the Arab Beirut University. “The Lebanese,” Azzi noted, “are responsible for the present situation, as they tend to choose the easy option of emigration instead of looking for job opportunities in Lebanon.” In an answer to a question on the new grades and salaries scales, Azzi said that wage increases are crucial given the worsening living conditions, adding: “the decision on this matter is now in the hands of Parliament”. (Al Diyar, 27 March 2015)

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