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The gradual escalation of civil unrest within Syria has spilled over to the neighboring countries, including Lebanon. The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon is expected to exceed one million by the end of 2013. Tensions between host and refugee populations are expected to rise as competition over jobs and resources becomes even more important to the survival of both communities.
This report provides a summary of the results of an EMMA study that was carried out on three market systems that are critical for refugee and Lebanese host communities as source of income in the North and Bekaa, namely construction labor, agricultural labor, and service-sector (hospitality and restaurant) labor. These assessments were intended to identify opportunities for humanitarian agencies to promote market-based income-earning possibilities for Lebanese host and Syrian refugee populations. For refugees in the North and Bekaa, the gap analysis compared an average cost of living against the average income levels refugees are able to earn from construction, service, or agricultural labor. For Lebanese host families, the gap was analyzed by comparing worker wages in 2004 to wages of workers found during the EMMA assessment.
The opportunities for promoting or strengthening livelihoods related to the construction, services and agricultural labor sectors are very limited in the current context. Each of these sectors has been significantly impacted by the crisis in Syria and are not capable of absorbing additional workers at a livable wage. When taking into account the increased expenditures host households must incur to support refugees and others impacted by the conflict in Syria, particularly in border areas where hosting burdens are high and market prices have increased, agricultural and service-sector workers are facing a strained economic situation. Construction laborers are relatively better off than Lebanese workers in the other sectors.
Refugees will continue to require humanitarian assistance to meet their needs for food, income and other services. Additionally, as labor markets continue to weaken, it is very likely that vulnerable host community families will increasingly require assistance from humanitarian organizations to meet their needs. Despite this bleak outlook, the EMMA makes several recommendations for narrowing the household income gap through vocational training, market-smart humanitarian programs, household financial assistance programs and the strengthening of local labor markets. These recommendations are aimed to either create income-earning opportunities in these sectors or to better provide assistance to refugees and hosts in a manner that fosters greater livelihood and income-earning opportunities.