4. Lebanese Immigration: Opportunities & Losses

  Instructor: Laurent Aoun

  Click HERE to get the text written by Mr. Aoun.

Immigration: Opportunities and Losses

Section I

Section II || Section III

   Part 1: Immigration and globalization

        1-1: Introduction

        1-2: Positive or Negative impact?

        1-3: Immigration is the first  aspect of globalization

   Part 2: Remittances of the immigrants and workers abroad

                         2-1: The constant growth of remittances

                         2-2: Reasons for remittances

                         2-3: The central Bank's policy toward remittances

Part 1: Immigration and globalization:

1.1- Introduction

According to the UN Population Division there are around 200 million immigrants worldwide. This number, although somehow modest, constitutes 3℅ of the total world population. However, this amount has increased over the past 30 years due to globalization which made communication and transportation from country to country much easier.

As for Lebanon, where immigration started in the late 19th century, the gaps are large in the estimates on the number of immigrants, in the absence of any formal census; but what is for sure is that the number of immigrants exceeded millions.

 We have to point out here that a study published by the University Saint-Joseph, in 2003, estimated the number of immigrants only between 1975 and 2001 to be 900 000. What is of certainty, however, is that the rate of immigration in Lebanon is much higher than the global immigration rate.

1.2- Positive or Negative impact?

  Many questions arise with contradictory opinions about the impact of immigration on many essential aspects, especially on the economic situation, the investment climate and the local development. Various economists point out that Lebanon’s primary source of foreign assets comes from immigrants’ remittances, only to be followed by tourism, where immigrants count for the larger portion of tourists. They also play a key role in boosting the communication and transportation sectors. Other economists perceive that the growing rates of immigration are no longer contributing in lowering the unemployment rates in the country; rather immigration is draining Lebanon of its productive capacities and turning the society into an aged one.

1.3- Immigration is the first aspect of globalization

  Immigration is considered to be one of the first aspects of globalization, and immigrants are its primary pioneers. The immigrant, who undertook the hazards of adventure, crossing the boundaries of his/her homeland into unknown territory in the search of a better life, is distinguished by his/her ability to understand and adapt to the demands of modern economy, and also contribute to its development.

Lebanese immigrants are considered to be the pioneers of modern globalization, and were able to achieve astonishing successes. Hence, they occupy key positions in many globalized giant firms due to the accordance of modern globalization and Lebanese competitive advantages like the ability to adapt, the spirit of initiative, the pursuit of additional education and mastering several languages.

In order to take advantage of this connection, a lot of effort must be put  in liberalizing some service sectors such as telecommunication, along with putting into effect legislation that would regularize e-communications, and that in the aim of benefiting from the potentials of the Lebanese residing abroad , plus speeding up and facilitating the connection between Lebanese companies and the rest of the world, and to push them into  the international market, while remaining in Lebanon; and thus, alleviating the alarming immigration rate. 

We must underline here the necessity of the aforementioned steps so that Lebanon would no longer be one of the few remaining countries that are deprived of the achievements and capabilities of its citizens.

It is important to point out here that after the severe crash of the American stock market in 2001, the sole beneficiary of globalization was no longer the west and its giant corporations. Mainly because U.S banks had, at the time, to sell maritime cable companies mortgaged for tenth of their actual price, thus allowing the new owners to drastically lower the tariffs on long-distance phone calls and internet services. In consequence, the barriers that stood in front of individuals and SME’s to compete against western companies were lifted. They had no more competitive advantage over one another, and thus the employments and manufacturing processes became globalized.


Year after year, we further notice the impact of immigration on many levels, especially in the fields of economy, investment, and local development.


The relationship existing between the Lebanese economy and immigration can be summarized into 3 main channels: the remittances of immigrants and workers abroad, the immigration of manpower, and the return of investors.


Part 2:  Remittances of the immigrants and workers abroad

2.1- The constant growth of Remittances:

The sum of the global remittances (money sent from immigrants to their home countries) is in constant growth and has increased from $102 billion in 1995 to $400 billion in 2011.

 The amount of remittances flowing into developing countries has passed from 81 billion USD in the year 2000 to 300 billion USD in 2010, about a 270 percent increase in the past decade; this is a clear example showing the role of globalization and technological advancement in facilitating and increasing communication between residents and immigrants, and thus increasing the amount of remittances flowing into their home country.

As for Lebanon, the amount of remittances sent by immigrants and workers abroad has augmented from $1.5 billion in 2000 to around $8 billion in 2010, illustrating an increase of 530% in 10 years; and composing 25 % of the GDP, while it was only 7.4% in 1998.

Around 45% of those remittances are sent by Lebanese working in the Arab states, reaching a number of about 400,000 people.

The volume of remittances was not influenced by the overwhelming economic and political crises that reigned over Lebanon. On the contrary, it has remarkably expanded, confirming once again the importance of these remittances in creating an economic and social safety zone.

2.2- Reasons for remittances:

    Three main reasons push Lebanese people living abroad to send money to Lebanon, and that is the tendency to help and assist relatives, the attachment to the home land, and diversifying the financial portfolio by purchasing treasury bonds and real estate.

 Kinship assistance includes financing for some basic needs such as food, housing, medical and education expenses. Accordingly, a line must be drawn here showing that higher education levels could create more immigration if it is not accompanied by projects generating new job opportunities enabling Lebanon to absorb the new highly qualified proficiencies.

Remittances are the primary source of foreign currencies in Lebanon, and they are unbound by any commitments, hence helping residents improve their purchasing capabilities in spite of the economic downturn.

Still, though, the positive effects can be much greater if the government would adopt a plan encouraging the Lebanese Diaspora to shift a part of their transfers into the sectors of productivity.

2.3- The Central Bank’s policy toward remittances:

The Central Bank of Lebanon is considered to be the main engine stimulating immigrant remittances and encouraging them to transfer money via formal channels and agents. And the primary steps employed at this level are:

1.     Guiding the banking sector to keep track of international standards regarding availability, liquidation and transparency.

2.     Using state of the art technologies for banking processes through transfers, settlements and compensation, ensuring safety and speed. Nevertheless, some banks have signed agreements with Lebanon electronically, thus simplifying and reducing the cost of money transfer.

3.     Adopting a policy to promote banking mergers which produce strong institutions able to spread in many countries with Lebanese presence; along these lines, providing personal financial services to the community, most importantly money transfer to Lebanon with competitive charges, and endorsing special immigrant programs such as housing loans.

      It is crucial to note here the necessity to launch a campaign on financial literacy in the countries with Lebanese presence, pointing toward amplifying the remittances to Lebanon, since the immigrants of the second and third generations tend to lose direct connections with Lebanon, and lack sufficient information about Lebanese banking and financial policies.


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1 (Poor: little effort; little work done; not very relevant -- Good, but Late)

2 (Good: good effort; answered questions appropriately; relevant -- Very Good, but Late)

3 (Very Good: great effort; answered questions very well; answers based both on text and on relevant (listed) outside sources,
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TOTAL: 100 Points

20 %: Session 1 || 20 %: Session 2

20 %: Session 3 || 20 %: Session 4

20 %: Participation [Engagement and Motivation],

Attitude, & Aspirations

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