The income gaps in Lebanon are large. The small elite’s wealth has grown since the end of the civil war in 1990, while the income of the poor has not increased significantly. The country also has no tradition of trying to distribute income equally. Poverty and lack of resources have also increased due to the large influx of refugees from Syria.
In Lebanon, those who have to manage on less than $ 4 a day (around SEK 30) are considered poor. This group covers more than a quarter of the population – almost 1.3 million people. Extremely poor is the one who has only one and a quarter dollars available – that’s around 350,000 people. Outside of the statistics, all Syrian refugees – over a million people – who also live in Syria are in temporary conditions.
- Countryaah Official Site: Official statistics for population in Lebanon, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.
Many people lack access to water, healthcare, education. Between 50 and 90 percent of schools and hospitals are privately owned and operated commercially, which helps to exclude the poorest.
For those who can pay, health care is of high quality. A large expense for the state is health insurance for public employees who are taken care of in private hospitals. About 55 percent of the population is estimated to be completely uninsured. In recent years, political organizations, such as Hezbollah, have built hospitals and offered subsidized care.
There are two social security systems – one for those who are privately employed and one for those working in the public sector. The systems, which include child benefits, pensions and sickness benefits, are primarily financed by employers. Anyone who has no job also has no right to these benefits.
During the civil war in Syria, Lebanon has received a fierce stream of refugees. Around one million Syrians have been registered as refugees in Lebanon in recent years, but the authorities estimate that another half a million Syrians have been in the country because of the war. Despite assistance from the UN refugee agency UNHCR to manage the refugee stream, Lebanon is under pressure and resources such as health care, schools and water and electricity supply are under severe pressure. There are no organized refugee camps for Syrians. Those who can afford rent a room or a home, but UNHCR estimates that more than half of all refugees live in abandoned houses, garages, sheds or tents.
The lack of resources has led to contradictions between Lebanese and refugees. At least 45 municipalities have introduced a curfew for refugees and the local citizen guard has been formed to ensure that the refugees obey the ban. The refugee stream has also caused an increase in the number of street children. Of around 1,500 children who were estimated to live and support themselves on the street in 2015, including through begging, close to three quarters were from Syria. A quarter of the children were as young as nine years or less.
In the country, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees have been living for a long time. Over the years, the UN, through UNRWA, has registered up to 470,000 as refugees, but a bill carried out in 2017 meant that the number dropped to below 200,000. The Palestinians in Lebanon are poorer than Palestinian refugees in other countries. They lack fundamental rights, although many of them have lived in Lebanon for over 60 years. They are denied citizenship and their right to own real estate is limited, as is access to the labor market. The standard of living in the country’s twelve Palestinian refugee camps is low.
In Lebanon, religion is important, even for non-believers. Religion, like family affiliation, is an important part of identity. Religious affiliation is also indicated on the ID card. Political power is added according to a predetermined pattern, where different religious groups are assigned different positions (see Political system). This sharp division has led Lebanon to be a fragmented society, where cohesion is strong within each group.
The religious groups are themselves responsible for family law and have their own rules for, for example, engagement, marriage, divorce and inheritance. Women are often discriminated against. Among the Sunni Muslims, for example, the son inherits twice as much as his daughter. Muslim men may differ at their own discretion, but the woman can only differ if the man is in it. In some Christian societies it is generally forbidden to divorce. A woman who is divorced is not entitled to any part of the couple’s common property unless they are registered on her, which is rarely the case.
Polygamy is allowed under Muslim law, but rare.
Lebanese citizenship is inherited from the father. If the mother is Lebanese, but not the father, the child does not become a Lebanese citizen.
Family ties are strong and cousins and other relatives are often as close to each other as siblings. The wealthier members of the family are expected to share with poorer relatives. The man is the head of the family. The woman is expected to take care of children and households.
A law banning domestic violence was passed in early April 2014 after several years of lobbying by women’s rights organizations and members of parliament. Critics have pointed out that the law is too vaguely designed and unspecific to fully guarantee women’s safety, but it is nevertheless considered an important step on the road to better conditions for women.
In the past, both Christian and Muslim marriages were arranged by the parents. Now it has become common for young people to date, especially in the cities. Since it is considered important that the man is financially independent when he marries, many men wait for marriage until they reach their thirties. Women usually marry somewhat younger.
Sex before marriage is generally not accepted. If a young woman has sex before she marries, it is considered to harm the family’s honor and can have far-reaching consequences. It can even cause relatives to murder the girl, or the one she has had sex with, to restore family honor.
Gay acts are perceived as criminal and can lead to a year in prison. Pride events have been held, but disturbed by government intervention.
Child marriage occurs, especially in rural areas in the northern and eastern parts of the country. The phenomenon has become more common during the Syrian civil war. Marrying a daughter is a way for a refugee family to ease the burden of livelihood. It then becomes a mouth smaller in the family to saturate.
A bill is being prepared to put an end to child marriage. Among Christians, the lowest marriage age is between 16 and 18 years for young men and between 14 and 18 years for girls. Among Muslims, the limit is 18 for men and between 14 and 17 for girls, but at the family’s request, exceptions can be made and girls as young as nine years old can be allowed to marry. In the draft law being prepared, it is not enough for a religious court to make such an exception – even a civil judge must give his permission.
One tenth of all children in Lebanon work, among the refugee children the proportion is much higher.
About our sources
FACTS – SOCIAL CONDITIONS
Infant Mortality: 6 per 1000 births (2018)
Percentage of HIV infected: 0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of HIV infected among young women
0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of HIV infected among young men: 0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of population with access to clean water: 92.3 percent (2015)
Proportion of the population having access to toilets: 98.5 percent (2017)
Public expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP: 7.4 percent (2015)
Public expenditure on health care per person: US $ 662 (2016)
Proportion of women in parliament: 5 percent (2018)
Presidential elections postponed following murder of general
In an attack in the Christian Beirut suburb of Baabda in December, the general who would succeed Michel Suleiman as army chief and two other people are killed. The murders are condemned in all political camps, but disagreements remain and the presidential election is postponed again. The Arab League is committed as a mediator.
Presidential candidate accepted – subject to conditions
Conversations between government and opposition lead to both political camps accepting Michel Suleiman as presidential candidate. However, opposition leader Michel Aoun sets a couple of conditions: that a “neutral” prime minister be appointed and that Suleiman should not sit for a full term but only until the next parliamentary elections to be held in 2009. The election of Suleiman is postponed further due to disagreement between the blocs on the composition of the government.
Violence at the refugee camp is decreasing
The fighting at the Palestinian refugee camp outside Tripoli is ebbing (see May). According to the Ministry of Defense, the fighting has claimed over 400 casualties. An unknown number of people must have been buried in mass graves in the camp. More than 200 rebels have been captured.
Increased fragmentation before the presidential election
In mid-September, Antoine Ghanem, a member of the Kataeb parliament, is murdered (see November 2006). The assassination increases the divide before the presidential election, and the opposition fails when Parliament is convened. New dates are set for the election, but they are repeatedly moved forward, as no candidate can be found whom both camps in Parliament can accept.
UN soldiers killed in southern Lebanon
In June, six UN soldiers were killed in southern Lebanon. It is the first attack against UNIFIL since been strengthened by the war in summer 2006. Sunni Islamists, inspired by the terror network al-Qaeda, is suspected of having done the deed.
Several bomb attacks shake the country during the month. Anti-Syrian MP Walid Eido loses life in a powerful car bomb in central Beirut.
Several dead in fire fighting
In early June, a firefight between the army and Islamists occurred at an entrance to the largest Palestinian refugee camp outside the city of Saida. Five people are killed.
The UN wants to take coercive measures against Lebanon
At the end of May 2007, the western countries of the UN Security Council are presenting a resolution based on Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, which means that the UN can resort to coercive measures. An international tribunal can thus be formed without Lebanese approval. Five countries, including Russia and China, cast their votes, claiming that the Security Council exceeded their powers by intervening in Lebanon’s internal affairs.
Struggles between Islamists and government forces
Violent fighting erupts in mid-May between government forces and members of an Islamist Palestinian group near a refugee camp outside Tripoli in the north. The unrest begins outside the camp when security forces are to arrest people suspected of bank robbery. The soldiers are then attacked by the Islamists. Three days of fighting result in nearly 80 casualties (33 army soldiers, 27 Islamists and 18 civilians). The fighting continues during the summer.