According to statistician Muhammad Shams ad-Din, about 55% of Lebanese citizens cannot exist without intensive assistance from external sources, such as international aid organizations, the government, or money sent to them regularly from family members who left the country in recent years and work outside Lebanon.
According to Shams al-Din, economic measures taken in recent years are causing and will further cause the decrease in Lebanon’s birth rate due to the high cost of raising children in the country. For instance, since the reduction of subsidies on milk substitutes for infants, the price of a box of milk has more than doubled.
In fact, for every baby, an average Lebanese family spends more on milk and diapers per month than the average monthly wage. So, every traditional Lebanese couple thinks twice about whether to get married (since if they marry, they will be expected to have children). As a result, Lebanon’s birth rate is dropping rapidly. If in 2021 there were 68,000 births registered in Lebanon, in 2022, only 58,000 births were recorded.
According to Shams al-Din, the monthly cost of living for an average Lebanese family of four is about 23 million pounds (About 250 dollars). If the family agrees to exist only on the most basic foodstuffs such as eggs or cereals, it could save about 20 percent of the average monthly cost, while the minimum wage is around four and a half million pounds (About 45 dollars). Of course, wages are not a real value in many cases, given the sharp volatility in the dollar exchange rate.
In light of the large differences between wages and living costs, the question arises as to how do Lebanese citizens make ends meet?
In addition to assistance from various charitable organizations and assistance from the UN, the main source of relief is foreign money from relatives who emigrated from Lebanon. According to an official World Bank estimate, almost seven billion dollars are transferred from expatriate Lebanese to their families in the homeland each year. Still, a more realistic estimate puts the amount at least twice as much, most of which is transferred in cash, in various ways, and also by Lebanese who visit during the holiday season and are considered tourists.