The impact of expatriates’ remittances on the households’ standard of living: Comparative study of Lebanon, Morocco and Algeria

FEMFEM3d-03 | May 2014


« The impact of expatriates’ remittances on the households’ standard of living: Comparative study of Lebanon, Morocco and Algeria »


Choghig Kasparian, OURSE, University of St. Joseph, Lebanon Choghig Kasparian, OURSE, University of St. Joseph, Lebanon


E.M. Mouhoud, LEDa-DIAL, Université Paris Dauphine

Note :

This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union within the context of the FEMISE program. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the authors and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

Summary :

The Lebanese emigration, which is very old historically, has always played an important role in the economic and social life of the households. More recently, the migratory flows of the Lebanese abroad have been continuously growing for different reasons, according to the national, regional and even international political and economic situation. Transfers from abroad to Lebanon have always represented an important part of the country’s resources. By referring to the estimates made by the World Bank[1], we note that Lebanon is ranked first amongst the countries of the MENA region as to the importance of the share of transfers in the GDP (22.4% in 2009). Morocco and Algeria are countries where the release of remittances constitutes an important part of the GDP (6.6% and 1.4% respectively).

The flows of capitals transferred by the expatriates in the form of investment remittances or bank deposits constitute an essential component of the Lebanese economy and represent an important part of the resources of the country.

The importance of emigration appears also in the society. In fact, a brief historical overview of the Lebanese emigration shows off the tradition of the Lebanese that consists of emigrating and creating migratory networks and channels since the first waves of emigration. This historical perspective of the Lebanese emigration allows bringing out, for the three main waves of emigration of the Lebanese since the end of the nineteenth century, the massive character of these movements, the multiple destinations and the unequal participation of regions and religious communities in the migratory dynamics.

This research has focused on the analysis of the impact of the emigrants’ on the Lebanese households and has also tackled the close connections with Morocco and Algeria where the expatriates’ remittances also constitute an important part of the revenues of the households in question. It has been achieved in three phases: the first phase has consisted of undertaking an survey with 2000 Lebanese households, 1000 of which receive transfers from abroad and 1000 do not (June-October 2012). This enquiry aimed essentially at evaluating and estimating the importance of the amounts received, identifying the fields for their use and their destination and finally studying their impact on the structure of households’ consumption compared to that of households of the same socio-economic category who do not receive external assistance.

The second phase consisted of retaining a small number of rural or semi rural localities (12) spread over the different Lebanese regions and known for their emigration tradition, to observe the locality and its inhabitants in a qualitative approach. This approach aimed at detecting the impact of external assistance on the transformations of the local community and depicting the transfers of knowhow, professional investment and new values at the level of the group as a whole.

The third phase should allow making connections with the data already available from enquiries, concerning the same subject in Morocco and in Algeria, to try to put forward the particularities and/or similarities between these three countries as to the impact of remittances from abroad on the households’ standard of living.

To accomplish the survey with the households, main source of information in this study, the households’ sampling was made from the data of the national enquiry undertaken in 2009 under the supervision of the OURSE (Observatoire universitaire de la réalité socio-économique/ University Observatory of the socioeconomic reality) of the Université Saint Joseph of Beirut, on the “Emigration of the Lebanese youth and their projects for the future”. 200 islands were drawn and each was granted a probability that is proportionate to the number of households existing in it and receiving external assistance, in each islands 10 households were selected, 5 receiving transfers from abroad and 5 not receiving such transfers but they are there as witness households.

This technique has allowed focusing the enquiry on a relatively limited number of islands, which permits a cost reduction, while ensuring representativeness of the different regions where characteristics in terms of emigration and standard of living are variable. In the 2000 households who were interviewed, 7471 resident members were recorded for whom individual information was collected. The number of emigrants who are relatives to those households was 3356 individuals for whom individual information was also gathered.

The questionnaire is divided into 10 parts and contains variables of households’ categorization, the socio-professional characteristics of the members, and the variables related to the characteristics of the emigrants as to remittances. Data collection was accomplished between July and October 2012, with the difficulties generated by the regional and national insecurity to be added to the usual difficulties faced by any enquiry on delicate subjects pertaining revenues and expenses. Many controls and coherence and likelihood tests undertaken at the office during and after the end of the data collection have allowed refining the files and ensuring a globally satisfying degree of reliability

This enquiry allowed recognition of the socio-economic characteristics of the households who benefit from remittances from abroad compared to those of households who do not have remittances: size and composition, number of children residing with the household in Lebanon and those not residing with the household, existence of expatriate relatives, demographic profile of the head of the household, his place of residence, his level of education, his activity, number of children going to school, number of active persons, number of workers per household. Other variables related to the different sources of revenues and their values, the various items of expenditure, as well as the satisfaction of households as to their revenue, the importance and the necessity of the transfers received in the daily life, the heaviest items of expenditure as well as the terms and conditions of use of the received remittances have been drawn out from an important number of variables foreseen in this regard.

This allowed also revealing the characteristics of the members of the households according to a comparative axis between the households who benefit from remittances from abroad and households without remittances: type of residence, age and gender, marital status, occupation, education level, additional information on universities concerning the specialization, the country issuing the degree, the source of financing of the studies, the contribution of the remittances from abroad to the continuation of studies, knowledge of foreign languages, situation as to the economic activity, the jobs practiced, the professional status, the sector of economic activities, the revenues. Unemployed persons are interviewed on more targeted information concerning: the causes and duration of unemployment, the difficulties faced and the methods of job search.

This enquiry has also permitted showing out the characteristics of the expatriates as to remittances. For the different criteria which can have an impact on the transfer it was possible to determine the weight of the expatriates in each one of the modes of the variable in question and nuance the existence of transfers according to their regularity or not and to their destination: transfer sent or not, regularly or not, used to send and is no longer sending, is sending to another household. These categories were combined with the age and the gender of the expatriate, the relation with the head of the household, the marital status, the reasons for leaving, the country of destination, the education level, the economic activity, the links maintained with the family in Lebanon and the country in general, the investments made in Lebanon and abroad and finally the intention to come back home. More targeted questions on transfers have allowed recognizing the amounts sent, the means with which they were sent and since when. Other questions have shown the family situation of the expatriate as to emigration and related to the remittances: the nationality and the place of residence of the spouse, the existence of children in Lebanon or abroad.

In the second phase, the qualitative study undertaken in a dozen villages, (choice of the localities by targeted selection), centered on the expatriates’ links with the place of origin, has shown the interest that expatriates have, not only for their family, but also for the local community as a whole, through the different collective actions made thanks to the remittances and to the knowhow of the expatriates native to that locality.

Considering the importance of the migratory phenomenon in the Lebanese society and its economy, (45% of households have at least one relative who has emigrated since 1975), and the lack of information on the remittances, the collected information in this project has bridged a gap and allowed a better estimation of the importance of remittances in the households’ budget, a precise identification of the fields of use of those remittances and an evaluation of their impact in the households’ standard of living.