Health & Education

Back to the Roots

Brain Gain

Long blighted by recurring conflicts and political instability, Lebanon has suffered from elevated emigration rates, with many highly educated professionals deciding to leave their homeland in search of business opportunities […]

Long blighted by recurring conflicts and political instability, Lebanon has suffered from elevated emigration rates, with many highly educated professionals deciding to leave their homeland in search of business opportunities in stable and more predictable countries. Though, when the holiday season begins, countless Lebanese living abroad head back to their home country to share the traditions and festivities with their friends and families, many of them hoping to eventually come back to Lebanon for the long haul.

Since in today’s highly competitive job market, experience gained abroad has become a vital component to success in most of the fields, a multitude of fresh graduates decides to leave their home countries to hone their skills and acquire new ones in order to achieve a competitive edge in their domestic job markets. This, of course, is no different for the Lebanese, who often, in addition to gaining experience, seek to obtain a foreign passport. For many, having a foreign diploma and an additional passport provides a feeling of security and a back-up plan in case of recurring conflict in Lebanon. But apart from practical benefits of studying and working abroad, there also see the social reasons that make investing in international experience worth the effort. Having such background helps to establish a position, not only in a domestic job market, but also within the society. The status that comes with having an international background can easily translate into professional benefits, such as higher salary, or better position.

Yet, in this increasingly globalized economy, the ambition of young and sharp Lebanese entrepreneurs knows no limits. Many of them no longer seek to leave Lebanon to work on products that could have international reach. In the midst of the global recession, instead of looking for jobs abroad, these individuals are creating them. This combination of entrepreneurship and the rise of the technology sector is a boon for the Lebanese economy. A new entrepreneurial generation with big ambitions and the ability to make things happen is emerging. But for these entrepreneurs to have a strong impact on their society, government will have to step in to provide them with infrastructure to support their goals and ambitions. While some Arab countries, like the UAE, seem to be moving in a good direction, in Lebanon, numerous challenges persist. There is still a lot of work to do when it comes to ensuring satisfactory internet access, which many technology-oriented entrepreneurs require. Nevertheless, Lebanese have always been accustomed to taking matters into their own hands and their innovative and entrepreneurial spirit never went away.

Those who decide to stay abroad are not less attached to their country, and always search for ways to give back to their homeland. Some come and invest, some share the gained knowledge to help others succeed. The diaspora is one of the sources that contribute the most to the development of Lebanon. Remittances of Lebanese expatriates grew from $7.86 billion in 2013 to $8.9 billion in 2014, representing a 13.2% increase, according to a recent report released by the World Bank. According to the study, Lebanon was the 14th-largest recipient of remittances in the world and the 10th largest recipient among 125 developing economies in 2014. It was also the second-largest recipient of remittances among 16 Arab countries and the third largest among 50 UMICs. Expatriate’s remittances to Lebanon accounted for 1.5% of the global inflow of remittances in 2014—the figure specifically impressive considering the modest size of the country.

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