Nearly half of Lebanese workers, 44 percent, went through 2015 without getting any pay raise, according to a recent study by Middle Eastern job site Bayt.com and market research firm YouGov.
In addition to the dearth of pay increases across the country last year, the study presented other numbers about the economic position of Lebanese professionals and their outlook for the future. Findings included 21 percent of Lebanese believe their salary is competitive with other companies; 56 percent believe their salary is lower than the industry average; and respondents said they considered real estate and construction, banking and finance, engineering and design as the highest paying industries.
When asked about the primary factor for their loyalty to a company, 47 percent cited salary and 37 percent claimed something else, for example, career advancement opportunities.
One of the biggest surprises in the study came in regard to a question about pay equality – 47 percent percent of respondents said they believe men and women are paid equally in Lebanon.
As for pay raises, even 36 percent of Lebanese who got a raise in 2015 were strongly dissatisfied with the increase. Many raises did not keep up with inflation, said respondents, and 40 percent of respondents expected a raise of up to 15 percent this year.
“The local economy isn't doing great, but it never really
has though, except for tourism, banking and real estate a few years ago, which
led to a bit of a boom.”
Elias Wehbe, co-founder and CEO of Flip, a company
that maintains a renter’s app for leasing or subletting dwellings, told Gulf News Journal in discussing
the pay issues in the country.
“Since a lot of money comes from expats and the diaspora, the quality of life of most Lebanese depends more on the economies of the Gulf, Europe and North America and the prices of real estate locally.” Wehbe said. “Historically, we've always gone through cycles, and quality of life is resilient because our income is generally diversified globally and we can borrow using real estate as collateral. … The low-income demographic, though, isn't as lucky, and they'll get hurt the most by salary stagnation.”
However, Wehbe pointed to a glimmer of hope in the tech industry.
“There's a growing tech startup scene, which I think is very exciting.” Wehbe said. “The problem is that the market in Lebanon is small, so if these startups figure out how to cross borders to the rest of the Arab world (which is the same problem European startups have in Europe), that would create job opportunities.”
Wehbe also spoke about another finding of the study, which said that 24 percent of Lebanese plan to go abroad for work.
“(They’ll go to) Europe, the U.S., China and the Gulf.” Wehbe said, adding that immigration to Gulf countries will probably decrease, given the low price of oil and unemployment in some of those countries.
Wherever they go, he said, the Lebanese will draw on their resourcefulness.
“Lebanese people are highly educated and proficient in three languages.” Wehbe said. “They also have a culture of resilience, mercantilism and hustle. They hustle. Which makes them successful almost anywhere they go, especially as entrepreneurs. We're better as a diaspora than as a nation - that's the sad truth and the reason why all the young people leave. That's been the case since the beginning of civilization, and honestly, I think it'll be the case forever.”