According to The World Bank, the average percentage of unemployment in Lebanon between 1993 and 2016 has fluctuated between 6.2 and 9.4%. Not to mention “disguised unemployment.” Lebanese youth in specific are struggling to find jobs that suits their demands and provide basic employee rights.
But wait, a stroll in Beirut’s Dekwene, Sedd Al Baouchrieh and Sin El Fil -in addition to many numerous places of course- introduces you to the iconic white announcement that demands female employees. Hundreds of these papers adorning Beirut’s populated stores are hung up and removed every day with little or no employees coming forward to claim the job despite the desperate call for employment. But why?
According to Jana, a previous employee at a clothing store in Dekwene, the wages are horrible! Sales representatives are expected to work for more than 10 hours a day for L.L 500,000 a month only (nearly $333!!!) That is why no one applies. Jana, the 33-year-old with a BA in theater, adds that in addition to the ridiculous salary, employees face constant nagging from store owners whenever the store fails to perform well. Sales people are responsible for mopping the floor, unpacking new clothing shipments and even learn knitting to repair damaged items for nearly $1 per hour. Tragic.
Another question here crosses my mind. Why is the female factor encouraged here? Why are women strictly asked to apply for these sorts of jobs? I went out and asked hoping I would be able to dodge sexist remarks, but that didn’t go as planned.
“Girls here are more presentable,” says store owner F. Kallas showing me her recently employed catch. “Girls look nice and are able to attract more customers, especially male ones.” I let out a sigh of relief due to the nonexistence of any sexist remarks, but I guess I sighed way too soon. “Men are supposed to do all the work. I ask my female employees to spend their salary on cosmetics because a man only keeps his woman if she’s pretty.” Kallas whose foundation doesn’t match her skin tone winked.
Kallas was honest, and whether we like it or not she represents a major part of the Lebanese mentality.
Clothing Stores at Malls Employ Men
Being a former male sales representative at a Lebanese mall myself, another question flashed through my mind here. Why are men not welcomed in the clothing stores of Dekwene, Sedd Al Baouchrieh and the surroundings? Newly made friend, F. Kallas, didn’t have the answer despite her claims of having found the ultimate sales formula. But then I remembered what my previous manager told me. “Malls employ males in the fashion domain because girls in specific want a guy telling them they look beautiful in this pair of heels or in that dress.” Again, the sexism made me want to face-palm! Who cares what men think?! Okay enough, that’s another subject that I might discuss in a future blog post.
Sales people at local shops are going through hell and back. They are underpaid, threatened to be replaced, not even enrolled in social security and mistreated. For nearly $400 maximum a month, they are asked to accomplish the impossible. Yet, at the beginning of every day, you see them asking God their employer doesn’t reduce their paycheck due to the decreasing performance of sales everywhere.