Libya Labor Market

The Libyan state is the country’s largest employer. Unemployment has long been high, while the country has been dependent on guest workers. Just over two-thirds of Libya’s wage earners were employed by the state before the outbreak of the war.

Libya, like other oil-producing countries, has been dependent on foreign labor for such tasks for which its own inhabitants do not wish to perform or lack qualifications. The figures are uncertain, but between 1.5 million and 2.5 million foreigners were believed to exist in Libya before the 2011 uprising began. Most were from other Arab countries or from sub-Saharan Africa, and performed heavier and low-paying jobs. Many of them were illegal immigrants who worked illegally in Libya, often under difficult conditions. Some were in the country hoping to move on to Europe.

The figure also included a small number of highly trained experts, such as doctors and technicians, who were often well paid. They came mainly from the Arab world or Southeast Asia, but also from Europe and other parts of the world.

Immigrant-hostile riots against predominantly black Africans erupted several times during the 1990s, costing many foreign workers their lives. The street government also had the habit of occasionally expelling paperless immigrants or guest workers, sometimes under brutal forms.

During the civil war in 2011, a notion that Gaddafi’s forces largely consisted of African lego nectars was spread (there were, but probably not very many). Black Africans in Libya were subjected to violent attacks in connection with this, which together with the fighting and the humanitarian crisis triggered mass escape from the country. Hundreds of thousands of people left. The lack of guest workers posed major problems for society. For example, hospitals were forced to close entire departments during the war in the absence of competent personnel, since foreign doctors and nurses moved to Libya, and the oil sector was affected as well.

  • COUNTRYAAH: List of key population facts of Libya, covering most basic population data, religion statistics, and language profiles.

Libya Population

In the years that followed Gaddafi’s fall, no one has achieved political control over the entire country, or stability. At the same time, the influx of migrants hoping to get to Europe has been great. In the absence of functioning order power and widespread abuse of all kinds, migrants have encountered great difficulties, often in the hands of militia groups. Slave trade reports have come back and been confirmed. After a video in 2017 documenting a slave auction in Libya, the UN appealed for help to the vulnerable. The UN and other humanitarian organizations have tried to act to stop the abuses and help migrants return home (see Calendar). In a few hundred cases, people rescued from slavery have been given refuge in Canada.



17.3 percent (2019)

Youth Unemployment

42.0 percent (2019)



Libya refrains from voting in the UN on refugee targets

December 17

Libya is one of three countries that cast their votes when the UN General Assembly votes on a target document for refugee reception. Hungary and the United States are voting against. Better access to healthcare and education for refugees are among the goals mentioned. An international migration agreement recently adopted in Morocco will also be included in the UN. Neither the agreement nor the target document is binding on the member states, for example, they do not entail any allowance for refugee reception.

Migrants at sea without help

December 3

Only 10 out of 25 migrants in a inflatable boat are alive when washed up on Libya’s coast after being in operation for eleven days without food and water. The lack of search and assistance efforts for them leads to organizations like IOM and Doctors Without Borders calling for action. German Mission Lifeline believes that the International Criminal Court (ICC) should review how the EU border and coastguard agencies Frontex and EU Navfor carry out their duties. Several aid organizations, for their part, are prevented from carrying out rescue operations. For legal reasons, their vessels lie at anchor in French and Maltese ports.


UN efforts for home travel increased

November 25

Since the beginning of 2018, more than 15,000 African and Asian migrants have returned to their home countries from Libya with the help of IOM, representatives of the UN organization said. Following reports that migrants trapped in Libya are being subjected to slavery, efforts to organize home trips have been increased. When the year is summed up, in early 2019, the UN expects a total of more than 16,750 repatriates, to 32 countries. In 2017, 20,000 migrants were helped to return home.

Sanctions against militia leaders

November 16

UN imposes sanctions on militia leader Salah Badi. He is said to have a military role within the groups al-Sumud (“Steadiness”) and al-Fajr (“Dawn”). Both oppose Libya’s internationally recognized government and have had an active role in fighting in Tripoli recently. The UN has unsuccessfully called on rebels led by Salah Badi to join a ceasefire. The United States imposes its own sanctions on the militia leader a few days later.

Meeting agreed on new meeting

November 13

At the beginning of 2019, a UN-led conference will be held on how to make a regular election in Libya. It is the result of a two-day meeting that took place in Italy. Warlord Khalifa Haftar from northeastern Libya has been on site in Palermo, but opted to meet different stakeholders on the site instead of taking part in the talks organized on Italian initiative. Detainees refuse to sit at the same negotiating table as some counterparts from Libya. No new election date has been set.

UN: No election before 2019

November 8

Elections will not be held in Libya until early spring 2019, according to UN envoy Ghassan Salamé. The ambition to go to elections as early as December (see May 29) may be seen as overplayed. To begin with, it is hoped that the parties to the Libyan main conflict will find themselves in Palermo, Italy, in the coming week to get the political process started again. The UN envoy has also set its sights on being able to conduct a national conference next year in order to create a platform for Libya’s political future.

Sexual violence can be punished by UN sanctions

November 5

The UN Security Council adopts a resolution that extends the possibility of imposing sanctions on people who commit serious crimes in Libya, and now even those who commit sexual abuse can be punished by sanctions. Russia accuses the governments of Sweden and the Netherlands, who have been pushing to expand the “crime catalog” in the UN, to want to make themselves popular in the home countries. Russia emphasizes that sexual violence is already punishable in different countries and that the UN Security Council should concentrate on threats to international security (see June 7 and September 12).


Designated terrorist leader arrested

October 8

Egyptian Hisham Ashmawi, former army officer but now terrorist, has been arrested in eastern Libya by the militia calling himself the Libyan National Army. He was arrested in the port city of Darnah and must have had a bomb belt on him that he could not release. According to reports to Reuters, he will be released to Egypt, where he will be held responsible for a number of assaults. Ashmawi has been linked to several terrorist groups, particularly in Sinai, related to either the Islamic State (IS) or al-Qaeda. According to Egyptian media, he received American education as an elite soldier before being radicalized.

New minister is given responsibility for security

October 7

Libya’s UN-backed government is being reformed. Fathi Bashagha receives the assignment as Minister of the Interior and is faced with the challenge of strengthening security in and around the capital Tripoli. Bashagha comes from the city of Misrata 20 miles farther east where there are strong militias. The regular army is scheduled to take over the guarding of important state institutions in Tripoli from militia. The government has also published a number of measures aimed at strengthening the economy, including the banking sector.


New attempt at ceasefire

September 25

A new ceasefire comes into force in Tripoli. According to Libya’s internationally recognized government, the militias will jointly patrol Tripoli and the city of Tarhuna southeast of the capital to fulfill the UN-brokered agreement signed on September 4. Militants from Misrata have participated in recent battles. They have now been driven out of Tripoli, but since the militia groups do not obey the government, it is uncertain whether the ceasefire has the conditions to hold.

Tripolist rises increase the risks for children

September 24th

The fighting in Tripoli has claimed a total of at least 115 lives and injured 400 since the beginning of August. About 25,000 people have left conflict zones to seek protection. They are often housed in schools, which can disrupt the autumn term which is about to begin. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund Unicef, almost half a million children may be in immediate danger if the fighting continues. The Fund’s North Africa head sees signs of several risks: children are prevented from going to school or vaccinated, and some are recruited as child soldiers.

Sanctions against militia leaders

September 12

UN and US face sanctions against Militia leader Ibrahim Jadhran, whose forces attacked oil terminals in eastern Libya in June, leading to a political crisis and loss of income for the Libyan state. The UN sanctions mean that member states are expected to freeze any militia leader’s accounts and prevent him from traveling. Militants and jihadist groups are putting increasing pressure on state institutions, reports an expert panel to the UN Security Council following recent weeks’ fighting in the Tripoli region, which has not completely ceased despite a ceasefire agreement. The Mitiga airport – a military facility used since the international airport was destroyed in 2014 – has been fired with rockets.

Accidents despite declining migrant flows

September 10

Human trafficking across the Mediterranean via Libya has decreased but has not stopped, although migratory flows are increasingly seeking refuge through Morocco. Two inflatables with migrants that embarked on Libya’s coast on September 1 have gone unstuck. More than 100 migrants drowned, among them at least 20 children, say survivors rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard for Doctors Without Borders. Some have suffered severe burns from boat fuel.

Smugglers disguised as UN personnel

September 8

Human traffickers pretend to be UN employees to deceive migrants, says the UNHCR, which claims to have received credible reports of fraud attempts, including from port cities. In June 2018, according to UNHCR, there were 679,000 registered migrants in Libya, but the true number is believed to be higher. The UN requires Libyan authorities to intervene. At the same time, MSF raises alarms that migrants being held in Tripoli under conditions similar to concentration camps need assistance with evacuation as a result of fighting between militia.

UN-mediated ceasefire in Tripoli

September 4th

The UN has brokered a ceasefire between warring militias in Tripoli. The death toll, according to local authorities, could rise to at least 63, most civilians, before the ceasefire comes into force – and a few weeks later new clashes take place that require about ten lives. The UN-backed consensus government has failed to get various armed groups, often clan-based, to cooperate in a government army or other security forces, but is forced to rely on militias to guard Tripoli. Several thousand civilians are reported to have moved from the suburbs where there have now been fighting. Others remain out of fear of looting.

Fighting and trapping in Tripoli

2 September

About 400 prisoners flee during a revolt in a prison on the outskirts of Tripoli. It blocks the nervousness of the capital, where open clan battles have been going on for a week that have required at least 40 deaths according to the Ministry of Health. Most of the fugitives are convicted of common crimes, but some have been imprisoned as supporters of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.


Death sentences against Gaddafian supporters

August 15th

Forty-five militiamen are sentenced to death by arch-bossing. According to the Justice Department, the doomed fire opened to protesters in the Tripoli district of Abu Salim in 2011, during the rise against dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The convicted are described as Gaddafian supporters, while the protesters were people who celebrated Gaddafi’s case early. 54 people are sentenced to five years in prison. It is not known when the convicted were arrested or how it went when they were prosecuted. The death sentences are the first in Tripoli since 2015, according to the BBC, which also writes that the death penalty is usually converted to life imprisonment.

Darfur rebels mobilize in Libya

August 15th

Darfur rebel groups in Sudan strengthen their presence on Libyan soil, according to a report submitted to the UN Security Council. Some have joined the warlord Khalifa Haftar’s forces in eastern Libya, but UN experts believe they intend to resume their warfare in Sudan as soon as they see the conditions. The Sudanese government says it only maintains security patrol in Darfur, no major military action, but the UN panel claims that weapons are flowing into Darfur, which violates the UN arms embargo.

Oil and weapons in illicit trade with North Korea

August 3rd

North Korea has begun to apply large-scale transhipment of offshore oil to circumvent UN sanctions to prevent oil deliveries to the country. In addition, North Korea sells weapons to Yemen and Libya via a Syrian intermediary. Evidence of violation of the sanctions is presented by UN expertise in a report to the Security Council. The report also describes how North Korea, in violation of the sanctions, sells coal and steel, among other things, which give the regime large revenues.


No to EU reception centers for asylum cases in the country

July 20

Prime Minister al-Sarraj says in an interview in the German newspaper Bild that he will not allow the EU to place any centers for dealing with migrants in the country. He also states that the government does not want to receive EU money to receive more paperless migrants.

Blocked against oil exports over

July 11

Oil exports resume in the east after stopping at four terminals as a result of the contradictions between the UN-backed government in Tripoli and the rival government in Benghazi. In the ports of Ras Lanuf, al-Sidra, al-Zuwaytina and al-Hariga in Tobruk, production has been disrupted since Khalifa Haftar – based in the east – took over the terminals with its LNA forces. Now, according to the state oil company controlled by Tripoli, Haftar has given up control.

Friendship agreement with Italy is activated

July 7

Libya and Italy agree to breathe new life into a ten-year-old friendship agreement. Under the agreement, Italy will invest the equivalent of US $ 5 billion in Libya. In return, the Libyan authorities will work to prevent migrants from entering Italy via Libyan soil. Libya also undertakes to receive the migrants returned by Italy. The agreement was concluded in 2008 but was put on ice in 2011 when Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown (see LIBYEN: Modern History).

Italy donates ships to Libya

July 4th

The Italian government announces that it will donate twelve ships to Libya to enable it to “fight human trafficking” and the flow of people seeking refuge to Europe. Italy also promises to train the Libyan coastguard. Several EU leaders have criticized aid organizations for indirectly helping human traffickers as they assist migrants / asylum seekers who are at sea. The aid organizations, for their part, believe that migrants are not safe in Libya. According to the International Migration Organization IOM, over 1400 people have been killed since the turn of the year when they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.


Haftar launches offensive in the east

17th of June

General Khalifa Haftar’s army LNA announces that a “major offensive” has been launched to take full control of the Northeast oil district. A few days earlier, an attack was carried out against the oil terminals in Ras Lanuf and al-Sidra, controlled by Haftar’s forces. Behind the attack lay Ibrahim Jadhran and his armed force PFG, who previously controlled the oil terminals with which were driven off by Haftar’s LNA 2016.

American aviation attack against terrorist targets

June 14

The United States is carrying out an air strike in Bani Walid south of Tripoli, in cooperation with the UN-backed government, against the al-Qaeda- affiliated group Aqim. A “terrorist” is killed, according to the US military.

UN sanctions against human traffickers

7 June

The UN Security Council introduces sanctions against six persons identified as responsible for human trafficking in Libya. A chief of the Libyan coast guard in Zawiya, two militia commanders in the same city and two Eritrean citizens are among the six accused. The sanctions entail travel bans and freezing of their possible assets (see November 20, 2017).

The Security Council supports election plans

6th June

The UN Security Council supports the plan for elections at the end of the year, however, without mentioning a specific date. The Security Council welcomes the pledges made by the parties to the Paris Declaration.


“Historical” settlement of elections

May 29th

At a conference in Paris, four rival parties agree that presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on December 10. French President Emmanuel Macron calls the settlement “historic” and says it is an important step toward reconciliation. But this is an oral agreement, not a written agreement. The Libyan parties participating are Fayez al-Sarraj, Prime Minister of the United Nations-backed Government (GNA) in Tripoli, General Khalifa Haftar whose Libyan National Army (LNA) controls eastern Libya, Agilah Saleh Issa who is President of the Tobruk Parliament and Khalid al -Mishri, chairman of the Supreme Council, an advisory body formed on the basis of the parliament elected in 2012 (and in accordance with an agreement concluded in December 2015). The four also agree that the legislation needed for the election should be adopted in mid-September. Several players in the crisis are missing at the conference, including militia groups in and around Misrata, which makes western Libya under-represented.

Many dead in fighting in Sabha

May 13th

Over 30 people have been killed and 120 injured in fighting between two rival groups in Sabha, 60 miles south of Tripoli, since early May. The battles over control of an ancient fortress in the area, intersected by smuggling routes, stand between the Arab tribe Awlad Suleiman and the tubu (tebu) – who are accused by the opponents of including many Chad warriors. Concerns have been going on in the area since February.

Offensive against Darna

May 7

General Khalifa Haftar announces that a military offensive has been launched to expel “terrorists” from the city of Darna, the only place in eastern Libya that his forces do not control.

Suicide bombing against the Election Commission

May 2

Fourteen people are killed when two suicide bombers strike at the Electoral Commission headquarters in Tripoli. The Islamic State (IS) is taking action and says it was a result of a call a few days earlier from IS leaders to attack polling stations throughout the Middle East. Just two days earlier, a quartet consisting of the UN, the EU, the African Union (AU) and the Arab League has emphasized the importance of holding presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya. No date has been set, but the UN is advocating elections before the end of the year and voters have started registering.


General Detention again in Libya

May 26

Khalifa Haftar returns to Benghazi after a longer absence abroad. The 75-year-old general has been treated in Paris, among other things.


Suicide attacks in the east

March 30

Eight people are killed when a suicide bomber strikes a roadblock manned by supporters of General Haftar near Ajdabiya. The Islamic State later takes on the attack.

US attack against al-Qaeda group

24th of March

Two jihadist leaders are killed in an air raid carried out by the US after coordination with the UN-backed government in Tripoli. The attack must have been directed at a “meeting with terrorist leaders” in the Ubari region of southern Libya. They are said to belong to the al-Qaeda- affiliated group Aqim. The US has carried out many aviation flights against IS in the south, but it is said to be the first time Aqim has been targeted.

Free Trade Agreement in Africa

21 March

Libya is one of 44 Member States of the African Union (AU) that signs an agreement to set up an African Free Trade Area, AFCFTA.

More than 16,000 migrants are reported to have been evacuated

the 13th of March

The EU reports that more than 16,000 African migrants have been returned to their home countries from camps in Libya, according to plans presented in December 2017. Remains in the camps are between 4,000 and 5,000 people, states EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.


Car bombs in Benghazi

January 23

At least 37 people were killed by two car bombs in Benghazi. The first explosive charge explodes after the evening prayer at a mosque known as a base for Salafist groups that have fought General Haftar’s troops against jihadists. The second explosion occurs half an hour later in the same area. It has been relatively quiet in Benghazi since Haftar claimed to have “liberated” the entire city (see July 2017), but some unrest still exists.

Violent fighting at Tripoli airport

January 15

Over 20 people are killed and more than 60 injured in fighting at Mitiga Airport on the outskirts of Tripoli. The fighting broke out when a militia group tried to free comrades from an inmate who is housed at the former military airport. Mitiga is now the only functioning international airport in Libya. It is unclear whether the victims are combatants or civilians. Only after five days can the airport be reopened.

Libya Labor Market