Social situation Poverty and food insecurity

The political and social turmoil that has beset Libya in recent years – flaring into armed conflict time and again – has disimproved living conditions for many Libyans. In 2021, the average per capita income was lower than before the fall of leader Muammar al-Gaddafi ten years previously.

Street scene in Zliten, a town in north-west Libya

Street scene in Zliten, a town in north-west Libya

Street scene in Zliten, a town in north-west Libya

Libya is around five times the size of Germany. The Sahara Desert accounts for about 85 per cent of its land area, and the majority of its seven million or so inhabitants therefore live along the Mediterranean coast. 80 per cent of the population live in urban areas.

Libya is ranked 92nd of 193 countries on the current United Nations Human Development Index (HDI).

Basic services not guaranteed

Water pipes and electricity lines are in poor condition owing to lack of maintenance. Different military groups also use disruptions in the drinking water and energy supply as a means of exercising political power. Public health facilities are unable to provide adequate care to the population. Parts of the municipal infrastructure were destroyed during the civil war. And so those are the areas where support from Germany and others is being focused.

The price of essential goods such as wheat, barley and maize has soared since 2021. Russia's attack on Ukraine is increasing inflationary pressure along with the risk of supply bottlenecks and food insecurity. Libya imports 90 per cent of its cereal needs, with 70 per cent coming from Ukraine and Russia.

Severe lack of jobs in the private sector

The labour market data available for Libya are inadequate. Any that are available suggest that around 60 per cent of the workforce is employed in the service sector and around one quarter in industry. Estimates suggest that up to 80 per cent of the working population is employed in the public service or in state-owned companies – a legacy of the socialist state established by Gaddafi, in which the Libyan economy was nationalised to a large degree.

Although the state’s role in providing employment and creating jobs is dwindling, the private sector in Libya remains underdeveloped. Any jobs that are created are primarily in the informal sector, for example, in agriculture, construction and retail. According to official figures, unemployment hit almost 20 per cent in 2021, and was as high as 50 per cent among youth and young adults.

As at: 23/01/2023