According to the American University of Beirut’s Crisis Observatory, the ongoing economic, political and social crises in Lebanon have resulted in mass emigration that could take years. In response, several initiatives have sought solutions that enable Lebanese talent to work remotely for foreign companies, thereby creating an incentive for them to stay in Lebanon.
Carla Richa wakes up at 8 a.m., dresses, prepares coffee, and sits in a corner office of her house in Beirut. From Monday to Friday, she creates her own work environment to meet the needs of her clients in Dubai and Egypt.
“For over a year I have been working remotely for an international advertising agency as a performance marketing executive”, Richa told FRANCE 24. “I’m happy because I have a good job and I have great experiences during my stay.” In Lebanon and comfortably live next to my family and friends. “
In 2020 the World Bank warned that migration was “becoming an increasingly desperate option” for the Lebanese. Two years after the country’s economic and social crisis, the Lebanon Crisis Observatory at the American University of Beirut found that Lebanon had witnessed a third mass exodus since the late 19th century, in which hundreds of thousands of Lebanese fled the country.
âIn view of the ongoing crises, the Lebanese are seizing every chance to leave, mainly because they cannot find suitable job opportunities in Lebanon. But the high rate of migration will have long-term effects on the country and the only way to respond to this trend is to outsource foreign businesses to Lebanese talent, âsaid Joseph Nemer, director of regional growth for Jobs for Lebanon, one in the US registered non-governmental organization that aims to open up international remote working opportunities for the skilled labor market of Lebanon by identifying international companies and connecting them with local service providers.
Remote working for foreign companies has been a trend in Lebanon since the mid-1990s, but the economic crisis has made it a necessity, said Neal El-Jor Taouk, Executive Director of Jobs for Lebanon.
âBringing in opportunities that offer a stable salary gives the Lebanese security, which in turn leads to a better quality of life. When you have peace of mind and are able to live comfortably, you will not feel the need to leave, âsaid El-Jor Taouk.
Since its launch in 2020, Jobs for Lebanon has built a database of more than 14,000 applicants and has posted more than 4,000 job vacancies online, 60 percent of which were remote.
âOur volunteers facilitate the connection between employers and the Lebanese and through mentoring, career coaching and jobs that match their profiles, give candidates the tools they need to prepare for a career,â El-Jor Taouk told FRANCE 24. âWe try to build this ecosystem to turn Lebanon into an outsourcing hub and encourage the Lebanese to stay in the country. “
Challenges for remote workers
âWhen do I stop responding to inquiries from my job?â Asks Richa, explaining one of the challenges of remote work. “It took me a while to cut back on my working hours and to realize that working remotely requires a lot of organizational talent.”
One of the biggest challenges of working remotely is building an appropriate team culture, as employees cannot see each other most of the time, says Wissam Youssef, co-founder and CEO of multinational technology consultancy CME, which recruits skilled workers to companies around the world.
âThe country’s weak infrastructure, including slow WiFi and poor power supply, isn’t that big of a problem,â Youssef told FRANCE 24. âThis is mainly because those who work remotely are paid pretty well and can therefore alleviate the challenges by having access to appropriate tools such as purchasing a UPS [uninterruptable power supply] System to compensate for the hours of power failures. “
With skilled brain drain on the rise, Mark Jlailaty, Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Joint Media House, a marketing agency that offers a fully outsourced marketing department for companies, said another challenge is finding the right candidates for the position.
“To respond to this, we have developed an academy to provide the skills required for the global marketplace and to give Lebanese people a chance to grow professionally,” he said. “We hope that we can keep as many talent in the country as possible.”
While some people have chosen to leave, others may not have that choice or they wholeheartedly choose to stay. Teleworking is for these people, explained El-Jor Taouk.
âI wake up feeling happy every day. Is it because of my remote job? Yes. Because it allows me to do anything I want to do during my stay in Lebanon, âsaid Richa.