The Lebanese population comprises mainly young people aged 15-29, and the country’s future depends on them. More than a quarter of these youngsters are unemployed or out of school, meaning they have no prospects for the future. With nearly half Lebanon’s population under age 30 and high levels of illiteracy among youth, Lebanon urgently needs investment in human capital to build its future workforce.
Lebanon has been trying to attract foreign investments since 1970, but it remains one of the poorest countries in the world because those investments have never reached their target – the country’s young people. Why? Because there is no investment policy for youth that would guarantee transparency and accountability. And Lebanon needs to attract innovation, including start-ups.
Leaving the country’s young people out of the equation and only focusing on attracting investors is a recipe for disaster. The Arab Spring, which began in 2011 and spread to Lebanon, has made it clear that there is a need for investment in human capital development in Lebanon, especially among youth who have been left behind.
It is estimated that over half of Lebanese youth are out of school or unemployed, representing a massive potential pool from which Lebanon can create its future workforce. Education has been the bottleneck for years because foreign funding has always stopped at the educational level. Meanwhile, public financing of the educational sector has not been enough to cover the cost of education, and this has often led to poorly qualified teachers and an unprepared workforce.
As a result, there is a need to encourage transparency in educational affairs and accountability from the guardians of education, such as the Ministry of Education, and those who manage educational budgets at all levels, including primary schools and universities. This is one way in which Lebanon can maximize its value for its economic future. The investment needed does not require massive amounts or investments in infrastructure or factories, which could take decades for their effects to be seen.
Marwan Kheireddine is President of the Lebanese Association for Educational Development (LAED) and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Human Capital Development. He is co-founder and CEO of the Fund for Education and Development in Lebanon (FED). He is also a Professor of Economics at the American University of Beirut (AUB) Graduate School of Business. Read more about Marwan Kheireddine