The other piece of economic luck has been Lebanon. The Syrian army's Soviet-style gobbling up of Lebanon, with a level of economic production (the gross domestic product, or GDP) four times greater than Syria on a per capita basis, bought a brief economic reprieve. To an extent, Lebanon plays a role for Syria such as Hong Kong does for communist China, serving as the steam valve releasing pent-up economic pressures at home, allowing entrepreneurs to bypass central planners and socialist bureaucracy. 12 Lebanon offers unregulated markets and trade that is largely free; it also serves as the arena of employment for a million Syrians, about a fifth of the entire Syrian labor force. Indeed, with an the unemployment rate in Syria estimated at 12-15 percent, and underemployment probably worse, the Lebanese economy offers the only alternative to starvation for many Syrian families.