Reports published by the UN and Syrian Government in the last 18 months reveal some disturbing social and economic trends. Three of these trends are worth highlighting:
1) Some 11 percent of Syrians live under the national poverty line of two dollars a day. [Brief UN commentary (English) & full report (Arabic)].
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2) Almost 2 million individuals in Syria could not meet their basic needs during the last two years. Overall poverty in the country hovers around 30 percent, and is highly concentrated in the rural Northeastern regions of the country. The bottom 20 per cent of the population consumed only 7 per cent of all expenditure, while the richest 20 per cent consumed almost half. [Brief UN commentary (English) & full report (English)].
3) Enrolment in Syrian public universities is dropping every year. More years of education make no difference in terms of salary differentiation. The number of post-graduate degree holders is continuously in decline. Only 20 percent of Syrian PhDs who study abroad return to enrich their national economy. Each of these facts point to serious structural impediments in the development of the Syrian educational sector. [Brief UN commentary (English) & full report (Arabic)].
The Syrian Government is fully aware of these trends and the impending fall in oil revenues. A common theme in several reports is the shortage of skills and brain drain. Many university graduates cannot find jobs either in the public or private sectors. They emigrate or end up doing menial work in the shadow economy which, according to the Government's own report, is estimated at nearly 40% of GDP. Reforms and foreign investment are still woefully inadequade. Syrian expatriates with the necessary capital and technical skills have no real incentive to return to a country that does not guarantee their human and legal rights or freedom of expression.