10.05.2012 - Social and Human Sciences Sector

Social inclusion: the difficult reality of young Lebanese women

Dr. Hassan R. Hammoud © UNESCO

Expert on Social Policy in the Arab States, Dr. Hassan R. Hammoud directed a pilot study on obstacles met by young Lebanese women to enter the labour market at the end of their academic studies. In this interview, granted the day before the presentation of the results of the study in a seminar organized by UNESCO in Beirut on Friday 11 May 2012, Dr Hammoud reflects on the complexity of the difficulties met by Female graduates in Lebanon and on what UNESCO could do to contribute to removing these obstacles.

The pilot study which you directed reveals that young Lebanese women are facing very specific obstacles to enter the labour market after their academic studies.  Which are these obstacles and why do you consider their situation is more complex than the situation of young women in other Arab States?
The findings of the pilot study on “Female college graduates’ school-to-work transition” in Lebanon pinpointed at a number of obstacles confronting these young graduates. These obstacles reflect on the one hand, the  family restrictions on their choices of majors and type of work, the personal limitations in the form of the majors they select and the academic and professional competencies they are equipped with which do not match the job market’s demands.

On the other hand, young female graduates seem to complain from the absence of or the inappropriateness of career guidance and counseling services, from lack of formal channels of recruitment and objective hiring practices which heavily rely on social and personal connections and favoritism, and from the lack of internship and training opportunities their universities offer them. Finally, their biggest worry concerns the limited job opportunities available to them, which when they are provided, seem to be inappropriate to their expectations.

Young female college graduates seem to face similar, however more complex situations in their search for employment than their counterparts in other Arab countries. They somehow outnumber male college graduates, have higher career expectations and rely more heavily on the private sector for employment. Therefore, in view of the obstacles they seem to be facing, their chances of succeeding in joining the labour force in their country appear to be slim.

What do female Lebanese graduates mainly claim?
Some of the female graduates claim not having the necessary skills required by the job market, not having had the opportunity to gain practical experience at the university, and for those working not being satisfied with the opportunities their jobs offer them for self-development and professional growth.

How can organizations such as UNESCO help them to overcome the obstacles they are facing?
UNESCO and other related organizations can provide technical advice and propose recommendations to the government, concerned ministries, universities and employers, as well as young female college students, on the appropriate means and ways to better facilitate the school-to-work transition and therefore, on how to capitalize and develop the use of human resources available in the country.

Is there something that young Lebanese men can do to allow young women to enter more easily the job market?
In my opinion, some of the challenges that young female graduates seem to be confronted with are also due to female-male stereotypes, negative attitudes and behaviors toward each other. Therefore, both men and women have to start believing that they have equal potential and capabilities, and hence they are both entitled to have the same chances and opportunities to realize themselves on an equal footing.

Which are your study's major recommendations to political decision makers in order to facilitate social inclusion of young women in Lebanon?
Some of the study’s recommendations call on decision makers to enact and enforce appropriate laws and legislation to protect women from discrimination and abuse, in addition to take the necessary action to reform some aspects of the educational system that would facilitate young female choices of non-traditional jobs and careers. Moreover, in order to facilitate the school-to-work transition of young female graduates there is an urgent need to mainstream this issue in the national development strategy on building the capacity of human capital in the country, and to integrate it in all plans of action and social and economic policies on youth empowerment. However, such a task requires collaboration between the various stakeholders and authorities responsible for human resource development at all levels and in various sectors.

Interview by Seiko Sugita and Cathy Bruno-Capvert

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