Executive Summary {short description of image}{short description of image}
The Mapping of Living Conditions in Lebanon study is a joint project between the Ministry of Social Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The project aims to provide information and analyses needed for the formulation of policies that contribute to the improvement of living conditions in Lebanon. To this end, the study seeks to measure the degree of satisfaction of basic needs in Lebanon for households and individuals, and to deduce the regional demographic, economic and social characteristics of the population.

The data base for the study came essentially from the results of the Population and Housing Survey which was carried out by the Ministry of Social Affairs in cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (March 1994 - September 1996). The study also draws on a number of recent works and research notably: Lebanon Maternal and Child Health Survey (1996 - UNFPA, WHO, UNICEF, League of Arab States, Ministry of Health); the Labor Market Study prepared by the National Employment Office and supported by UNDP, ILO (1997); and the report entitled "A Profile of Sustainable Human Development in Lebanon" published by the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) and supported by the United Nations Development Programme (1997).

The study attempts to measure the level of satisfaction of basic needs for households and individuals residing in Lebanon. It is not a study on poverty and the poor, but on living conditions. However, it implicitly includes a rough and indirect estimate of the poverty phenomenon in Lebanon as an element of a broader phenomenon, namely, that of deprivation from the satisfaction of basic needs. In this connection, it is important to bear in mind that the term "low" satisfaction used in the study does not necessarily correspond to "poor", nor does the term "high satisfaction" correspond to "rich" or that of "intermediate" satisfaction to "middle" class. This is particularly true of the category of intermediate satisfaction, which represents the largest category of households living at the threshold of satisfaction of basic needs, or somewhat above it

The timing of the study coincides with the mounting concern regarding the pattern of income distribution in Lebanon. The war brought about a reversal in the significant improvements which were realized during the 1960s and first half of the 1970s. As a result, the pattern of income distribution in the mid - 1990s came to resemble that which prevailed at the beginning of the 1960s, with the share of the low income category rising sharply at the expense of both the intermediate and high income categories.

To measure the "level of satisfaction of basic needs" for households and the population residing in Lebanon, the study uses the "Unsatisfied Basic Needs" (UBN) method. This methodology was applied to the raw data obtained from the Population and Housing Survey. In the absence of income and expenditure data, and on health indicators, a set of 11 indicators was selected, grouped into four fields, as follows:

* Housing and related indicators
* Water and sewerage
* Education and related indicators
* Income-related indicators

As a result of the application of the UBN methodology, each household obtains 11 scores, corresponding to the 11 individual indicators. The household also obtains 4 scores corresponding to the 4 field indices. Finally, it obtains a composite score for the living conditions index which is used to classify households into 5 or 3 categories on the scale of basic needs satisfaction (very low, low, intermediate, high and very high). The 3-level classification combines the degrees of very low and that of low satisfaction in one category, namely, "low" satisfaction; and the degrees of high and very high satisfaction in a category of "high" satisfaction. It leaves the category of "intermediate" satisfaction unchanged with respect to both range and designation.

Given that the scope of the study was confined +to the measurement of the degree of satisfaction for those needs that could be examined through the questions included in the Population and Housing Survey, has meant that other priority needs such as health care had to be left out.

Characteristics of the Deprived
The study examines the characteristics of the deprived in Lebanon with respect to location, demography, education, housing services, car-ownership and occupation of head of household and relation to the labor force.

Geographical distribution.
The study deals with the geographical distribution of households on the basis of degrees of satisfaction in accordance with three approaches.

The first approach involves the measurement of the proportion of households that fall below the threshold within the geographical/administrative regions, i.e. the mohafazats and kadas. This criterion makes it possible to classify the mohafazats and kadas based on the extent of deprivation, and to rank them in descending order, from the most to the least deprived. It also allows making approximate comparisons of the social structures prevailing in the different kadas. This type of approach is suitable for drawing-up local policies, and for determining rural development priorities.

It is worth noting in this connection the contrast between the Mohafazat of Beirut and that of Mount Lebanon, on the one hand, where the proportion of households classified as having a high degree of satisfaction is larger than that of deprived households, and the remaining four mohafazats (the North, Bekaa, South and Nabatieh), where the situation is reversed.

The second approach involves the measurement of the actual numerical distribution of deprived households (and individuals) among the different regions. This makes it possible to estimate the size of the potentially targeted groups and their location - parameters necessary for designing assistance programs and defining the services to be delivered to these groups at the places where they live and work.

The ranking of kadas according to the actual number of deprived resident households, as a percentage of all deprived households in Lebanon, differs from the ranking observed in the first approach. This is because the deprived concentrate in large numbers in urban areas (57.4 percent of the deprived population is found in urban kadas). The capital and its suburbs alone contain 25.3 percent of the total deprived population - most of them having moved from deprived rural areas.

Based on the actual number of resident deprived population the kada of Akkar comes first (12.5 percent) followed by Baabda (11.8 percent), Tripoli (8.2 percent), Baalbeck (7.6 percent), El-Metn (6.3 percent), Tyre (5.7 percent), El-Minieh (5.1 percent) and Beirut 7.2 percent. The kadas having the least number of deprived are: Jezzine (0.4 percent), Bcharry (0.5 percent), Hasbayya (0.7 percent), Rachayya (0.9 percent), Batroun (1.1 percent). It is worth noting that the ranking of the latter group of kadas reflects the small size of their population, more than high levels of well-being.

The third approach measures the percentage of deprived households according to the place of registration of the household head in the civil registry. This approach enables the determination of the kadas of origin and destination of the deprived and measurement of the extent of rural-urban displacement.

Based on the lieu of registration of the household head, the ranking of kadas becomes as follows: Akkar (11.4 percent), Baalbeck (9.4 percent), Tyre (5.8 percent), Tripoli (5.3 percent), Bent-Jbeil (5.2 percent), Chouf (4.8 percent), Nabatieh (4.6 percent) and Beirut (6.7 percent). By the same criterion, the kadas with the least deprivation are Rachayya (1 percent), Bcharry (1 percent), Koura (1.2 percent), Hasbayya (1.2 percent), Batroun (1.3 percent) and Jezzine (1.3 percent).

If the percentage of deprived households calculated according to the lieu of registration of the household head were related to the total number of households in the kada, the kada of Hermel comes first with 61.4 percent, followed by Akkar (55.6 percent). At the opposite end, there are the kadas of kesrouan and El-Metn, where the percentage of deprived households is about 16 percent of all households registered, and Beirut (19.1 percent).

The leading exporters of deprivation are the kadas of Baalbeck, Bent-Jbeil, Akkar, Marjaayoun, Chouf and Nabatieh; while the main receivers are Baabda, El-Metn, Tripoli and Kesrouan; in addition to Beirut.

Demographic characteristics. The age pyramid of the deprived population differs in significant respects from that of the total population. The deprived include in their ranks a larger number of children and old people. Children aged 0-14 years account for 35.6 percent of the deprived in Lebanon, i.e. 6.3 percentage points above the national average. Similarly, old people aged 65 years and above constitute 8.3 percent, or 1.4 percentage points higher than the national average. In contrast, their share in the population of working age is lower, being 56 percent compared to 63.8 percent for the country as a whole. Deprived households also include a larger number of individuals, and a higher percentage of widows/widowers than the national average. The ratio of deprivation is also higher among households that have women as their head:

* The average size of the deprived household is 5.11 persons, compared to a national average of 4.65;
* The ratio of widows/widowers reaches 19 percent among deprived households, compared to 11.8 percent for the country as a whole; and,
* Households headed by a woman represent 19.3 percent of all deprived households, compared to a national average of 14.1 percent.

Educational characteristics. Deprivation is associated with low educational attainment. The majority of the illiterate, and those with low educational attainment, belong to the category having a low degree of satisfaction. In general, children of deprived households attend public schools and free private schools, including schools established by religious bodies and charitable organizations. These children are highly exposed to the possibility of delays, failure, and dropout, which reduces their chances of reaching the secondary and university level.

Illiterates make up 21.2 percent of deprived individuals, compared with 11.1 percent in the population as a whole. Those who can read and write make up another 12.5 percent; while 23 percent of the total deprived population has never attended a school. Those who have completed the intermediate level constitute 9.2 percent of the deprived, the secondary 2.7 percent, and university students 0.4 percent only. The corresponding national averages being, respectively, 15.8 percent, 11.7 percent, and 5.5 percent.

Characteristics related to housing, services and car-ownership. The study shows that there is no direct correlation between the type of dwelling and its ownership, and living conditions since a significant percentage of the deprived households own the dwelling in which they live and are less dependent on rent. There is, however, a clear link between the number of rooms and the area of the dwelling on the one hand, and the low degree of satisfaction, on the other.

* Around 69.5 percent of deprived households live in apartments, while another 29.6 percent live in an independent house. Also, 60.6 percent of them fully own their house, while tenants constitute 21.5 percent.
* Some 74.1 percent of the deprived households live in houses having 3 rooms or less (12.5 percent of households live in one room); another 12.2 percent live in houses having an area of less than 30 square meters; while 40.3 percent live in houses with an area ranging between 31 and 80 square meters.

With respect to heating and other services, and car ownership, the study shows that:

* The majority of deprived households (59.7 percent) use fuel oil, gas or kerosene for heating; 23.8 percent use other means (charcoal, wood...); while 13 percent have no means of heating.
* As for water, 73.3 percent of deprived households are connected to the public network, while 12.5 percent are not. The network is the main source of non-sterilized potable water for 60.3 percent of the deprived households, compared to 14.1 percent which resort to water from springs, and another 20.1 percent which rely on other cheap sources.
* With respect to sewerage, 48.6 percent of deprived households use septic tanks, and another 46 percent benefit from the public sewerage system.
* As for car-ownership, 71.2 percent of deprived households do not own a private car, and only 28.1 percent own one.

Occupation of head of household and relation to the labor force. Wage earners constitute 58.3 percent of heads of deprived households; the self-employed another 38.7 percent; and employers 2.9 percent only. This indicates that work in itself is not enough to escape deprivation due to the limited wages earned in a vast array of occupations, and in several economic sectors.

The study also indicates that the bulk of heads of deprived households are engaged as farmers and skilled workers in agriculture and fishing (12 percent); operators and drivers of heavy vehicles, equipment and cranes (11.5 percent); unskilled workers and employees in sales and services (10.7 percent); vendors and slaes assistants (9.7 percent); miners and construction workers (9.1 percent); and agricultural workers and fishermen (9 percent).

Policies Bearing on Living Conditons
Wage policy is a major element in improving living conditions and the fight against poverty, as wage earners constitute currently around 70 percent of the labor force in Lebanon, and because the value of real wages was eroded by inflation during the last two decades. Moreover, successive wage corrections have not been sufficient to compensate for the effects of inflation and the cumulative rise in the cost of living.

Employment policy appears to be spontaneous and left to the market mechanism. Official pronouncements do not include reference to any specific employment policy. The Lebanese labor market is open and free of any effective regulation regarding the employment of expatriate labor. This demands the adoption of a more systematic and less spontaneous approach for promoting employment involving provisions and incentives to protect the labor market; creation of employment opportunities to absorb in particular the young seeking employment for the first time; the rehabilitation of those already employed; and the promotion of small and medium-enterprise.

There also appears to be possibilities for horizontal and vertical expansion in agriculture capable of creating employment opportunities. Similarly, the ability of Lebanese industry to withstand heavy losses during the war indicates that it continues to retain numerous advantages, rendering its support a highly rewarding alternative for promoting growth and employment.

Reducing the cost of living is another ingredient in the policy to improve living conditions. After 1992, the government was able to reduce the rate of inflation dramatically, stabilize the currency and even improve the rate of exchange of the Lebanese Pound. However, the social ramifications of these improvements have remained weak. Also, sufficient attention has yet to be given to the social implications of current policies relating to taxes, fees and pricing of services.

Safety nets could play an important role in reducing the spread of poverty and improving living standards. The scope of their coverage and benefits, however, would have to be expanded considerably to have a more meaningful impact and compensate for unfavorable trends triggered by the war.

Main findings and Recommendations


According to the Living Conditions Index, there are 214,000 households, or 32.1 percent of the total, that live below the satisfaction threshold, counting 1,095,000 individuals or 35.2 percent of the Population. These are divided between households having a very low degree of satisfaction, including 7.1 percent of households (6.8 percent of individuals), and those having a low degree of satisfaction, including 25 percent of households (28.4 percent of individuals). Households having intermediate satisfaction represent the largest component, with 41.6 percent of households (42.2 percent of individuals), while households having a high degree of satisfaction account for 26.4 percent of the total (22.3 percent of individuals).

A large percentage of Lebanese households appear to be able to satisfy their needs to an acceptable degree in so far as housing, water and sewerage services are concerned. The extent of deprivation, however, increases when it comes to income-related indicators and education. In other words, deprivation expressed by low income levels in Lebanon is probably more widespread than forms of deprivation related to the availability of basic material and social services. Income levels are sensitive to short term changes, and to political and economic factors that adversely impact on the sources of income. In contrast, the other elements are subject to influences that take longer to be felt, and reflect assets and resources accumulated by households, or services made available by the public sector.

This implies that improving household incomes and the level of education would probably contribute to improve overall living conditions more than would improvements in housing and in water and sewerage services.

Hence, the importance of giving priority to designing policies and programs that support household incomes directly and indirectly, through a diversified package of projects and measures: raising wages; creating more productive employment opportunities by providing new employment outlets or through training and vocational rehabilitation; and lowering the cost of commodities and services that enter into the basic needs basket, especially education and health services.

The important role which the private sector assumes in education and health care renders the monetary equivalent of the basket of goods and services considered as basic needs high in Lebanon relative to income levels. The gap between incomes and expenditure needs could also be reduced by lowering the cost of these two essential services.

The study shows that the majority of households own the house in which they live, especially in rural areas. It also shows that the origins of the problems - particularly acute in the case of newly-formed households - in this field are many, of which the most important are: the small area of the dwelling and limited number of rooms, especially in the case of households in the lower satisfaction category; high cost of acquiring a house relative to income levels whether through building, purchase or rent; regional disparities in demand and its concentration in the capital and its suburbs due to the concentration of study and employment opportunities in these areas; differences in the actual and legislative status of leased dwellings, depending on the date of lease and stagnation of the rent market; and disparity between the structure of supply and demand for housing, in general, leading to the emergence of a very large number of vacant apartments (estimated at around 20 percent in Mount Lebanon at the beginning of 1996 and 11.9 percent in Beirut).

Concerning water, the problem varies depending on the regions and the adequacy of the infrastructure. The priority in this field, however, is for rehabilitation, increasing the number of feed hours, water treatment and quality control, especially of potable water. In the case of sewerage, the main problems relate to the environmental and health effects: need to unload and treat the accumulated refuse, treatment of sewage flows before being discharged into rivers or the sea, as well as the deterioration of the sewers network and the leakage of sewage waters to the water network.

Worth noting in this connection is the positive link between government intervention (legal intervention in the case of rent, or the direct production and provision of services as in the case of water and sewerage) and the reduction of disparities in the degree of satisfaction of basic needs. In contrast, it is possible to link the acute disparity in the field of education to the diminishing role of public education, and the growing importance of the private sector and the associated sharp rise in the cost of education.


The responsibility for designing practical and effective policies for raising living standards does not rest with the Ministry of social Affairs alone, nor with any specific group of ministries. It is the collective responsibility of all the parties involved in the development process, with a special role for the government, including the entities concerned with the formulation of overall economic and social policies.

Two broad types of intervention may be distinguished. The first type is directed mainly at dealing with the consequences of deprivation rather than with its causes. This type of intervention targets socially weak and vulnerable categories (the handicapped, households that have women as head, etc.); or it targets a specific and well-defined deprived region.

The second type of intervention is of the preventive kind and takes place at the level of formulating macro-economic and social policies. It is addressed at the underlying causes of poverty and includes interventions ranging from economic and social legislation (taxes, fees, labor legislation, etc.); sectoral policies (wage and price policies and demographic, education and health policies, etc.); to integrated economic and social development programs (rural development programs, programs for the return of the displaced).

The Mapping of Living Conditions study is an important endeavor to provide the information base needed for elaborating remedial policies and measures. But while the study can assist in highlighting the need to cover other aspects, these should be the subject of separate studies that adopt methodologies appropriate to the issues to be investigated, such as household income and expenditure, and poverty studies.

The recommendations of the study cover the following broad areas:

* Priorities of intervention at the national level
* Regional disparities
* Gap between incomes and the cost of living
* Sectoral level
* Housing
* Education
* Water and sewerage
* Health Care
* Income-related indicators
* Priorities for action at the level of regions

* Subsequent studies.

The recommendations include:
* Endeavor to exploit the results of the various surveys and studies that have become available recently, and those to be issued subsequently.
* Elaboration of a national strategy for rural development with the aim of halting the mechanisms that generate regional disparities.
* Promotion of decentralization of private sector economic activity, including a more balanced distribution of financial resources for investment.
* Restoring balance between the roles of the public and private sector in the field of education and health care to achieve ultimately free and mandatory basic education, free primary health care, and more efficient preventive medicine.
* Elaboration of a flexible and appropriate wage and income policy consistent with the level of prices, and a more effective employment policy.
* Interventions and special programs in favor of young people seeking to set up new and independent households.
* Special programs to improve housing standards for deprived households who own their dwellings.
* Raising the standard of water and sewerage services in the deprived regions to the national average, controlling the quality of potable water, and preventing its contamination at the source or during carriage in the network.
* Gradual expansion of the absorptive capacity of public schools.
* Increasing the number of kindergartens in the public and civil sectors.
* Activation of the public sector role in the formulation of health policies and provision of services, and controlling the quality and cost of health care services provided by the private sector.
* Coordination of public and private sector efforts to provide free or quasi-free primary health care services, including benefits from the existing network of social and heath centers, civil society centers and medical schools' programs.
* Adoption of measures to create an environment conducive to the establishment and growth of small and medium enterprise.
* Modernization and expansion of the scope of vocational rehabilitation and training, and promotion of income-generating projects.
* Intervention in the most deprived kadas and according greater priority to the phenomenon of deprivation in the cities and suburbs, where the largest concentration of deprived households is found.