Youth Facing Lack of Employment Opportunities, Favoritism, and Discrimination
The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) at the American University of Beirut (AUB), in partnership with the Lebanese Association for Educational Sciences (LAES), organized a webinar titled “Youth Facing Lack of Employment Opportunities, Favoritism, and Discrimination” on Thursday April 15, 2021 at 11 am. This session fell under the framework of the webinar series titled "Youth in Marginalized Settings in Lebanon: Lebanese Poverty Pockets, Palestinian Camps, and Syrian Gatherings.”
The webinar built on the findings of a three-year project (2018-2021) conducted under the supervision of Dr. Adnan ElAmine, former Professor at the Lebanese University and Lecturer at AUB, on youth in Lebanon living in marginalized areas.
Moderated by the development consultant Dr. Adeeb Nehme, the panel hosted the Director of IFI Dr. Joseph Bahout, President of LAES Dr. Suzan Abdel-Reda Abu Rajeli, the Primary Investigator of the study Dr. Adnan ElAmine, and members of the research team including Professor of Sociology at the Lebanese University Dr. Maryz Younes, Dean of the Faculty of Human Sciences at Notre Dame University Dr. Kamal Abu Chedid, and Professor of Education at the Lebanese University Dr. Ghada Jouny. The webinar also hosted Jad Shaaban, Associate Professor of Economics at AUB as discussant.
The session began with an opening speech by Dr. Bahout, who welcomed the participants and attendees, and explained that "this webinar is special because it sheds light on the reality of the marginalized youth in Lebanon and the difficulties they face, especially in the labor market." He added, "we hope that this seminar will provide us with valuable information and in-depth analysis about the socio-economic situation of the country." Dr. Bahout also stressed on the importance of this issue in light of Lebanon’s crises. He concluded his speech by welcoming his "dear friend" Dr. Adnan ElAmine to the Institute as a Senior Fellow. He declared that ElAmine will serve as a supervisor on the education and youth policy program at IFI.
In her turn, Dr. Abu Rajaili, President of LAES, expressed her pleasure in terms of the first collaboration between the association and IFI. She also voiced her confidence that this academic partnership will contribute to making scientific knowledge available to a wider audience.
Dr. Adnan ElAmine then presented the sampling procedure for the study, which was conducted in summer 2019. A total of 144 focus groups participated in the study, 48 groups for each nationality distributed equally between genders (24 females, 24 males). A total of 1,166 young women and men between the ages of 15 and 25 took part in the groups. The overwhelming majority of them (1,009) are unmarried. Most of the 140 married people are Syrians. Half of the Palestinian participants were pursuing their studies and half of them left school, while two-thirds of the Lebanese were pursuing their studies and two-thirds of the Syrians had left school. He explained that this research focused on youth in marginalized areas and not marginalized youth.
Dr. Adib Nehme started the discussion by presenting the research team. Dr. Maryzs Younes shared the results of her research on Lebanese youth and indicated that the focus of the Lebanese youth was on exploitation, bullying experiences, discrimination and abuse. She also noted that the reaction of the youth to their mistreatment was as follows: Becoming more violent, leaving work, or surrendering. She also added that Lebanese youth consider wasta a game changer for those who are politically affiliated and a barrier for those who are not.
Dr. Kamal Abu Shadid then processed to share the results of his research on the Palestinian youth. He highlighted that their reaction to the different forms of discrimination they face are: Acceptance, rejection, or rebellion. He concluded by highlighting the legacy of marginalization entrenched in the minds of Palestinian youth.
Dr. Ghada Jouny’s presentation covered the discriminatory practices Syrian youth face at different levels including: Legislative, legal, and social. Young people fight daily racism and discrimination to get paid low, work at seasonal jobs, and become deprived of their basic rights. Dr. Jouny also highlighted that Syrian youth get exploited and harassed, in light of the absence of any laws that protect them.
Finally, Dr. ElAmine shared the results of a comparative study he conducted for the three population groups and explained that youth in all the groups share the feeling of scarcity when it comes to job opportunities. He added that each group attributes their problems and this feeling to the other groups. Dr. ElAmine noted that social relations play a large role in the provision of opportunities. He added that the youth in marginalized areas are aware of the prevalence of discrimination and abuse against them and that there is no law to protect them, excluding the Palestinians, who are governed by a law that determines which jobs they can occupy.
After participants finished their presentations, Dr. Jad Shaaban, commented on the results and pointed to the importance of highlighting the actual contribution of this study. He also stressed on the need to conduct a comparison between the factors that could contribute to worsening or bettering the situation including nationality, place of residence, and place of work. In addition, he called on the importance to compare between other groups of society including foreign workers and older people.
Dr. Shaaban said that researchers should also shed light on the positive aspects of the youth’s lives, given that negative perception is common among Syrian refugees in particular. This has resulted in overlooking the talents and creativity of these youth. He also commented on the need to transfer the research approach from a humanitarian perspective to a livelihood perspective: “We, as people concerned with public affairs and research, should not focus on living a resilient life. We should instead focus on motivating the younger generation to rise above all barriers. And the way to do this is through educating the youth and investing in the public sector. Legal support and local initiatives could help eradicate poverty.”
In conclusion, a Q&A session was held. Dr. ElAmine built his answers from the study’s research questions on how the Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian youth in marginalized areas in Lebanon deal with their reality and their surroundings. He added that the upcoming sessions will share further knowledge on the subject.