Moroccan Youth Struggle to Find Employment Opportunities

Amid staggering youth unemployment rates, the Moroccan government must develop a systematic approach to integrate young citizens into the country’s work force.

al-monitor Riot police charge toward an unemployed graduate taking part in a demonstration about the lack of jobs in Rabat, May 29, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal.

Topics covered

education, youth, unemployment, moroccan economy

Jun 30, 2013

Youth between the ages of 15 and 29 in Morocco account for about 30% of the population and 44% of the people who are of working age. This demographic situation is both an opportunity and a challenge. Young people are an important asset for the country’s human capital, and they can give impetus to turn the wheels of economic growth as they increase productivity, innovation and consumer demand. However, youth exclusion from economic and social fields in Morocco — as is happening in the entire Arab region — is preventing the country from reaping the benefits of this “demographic blessing.”

The following are summarized indicators of the aspects of exclusion experienced by the youth:

First, although youth unemployment rates in Morocco are high — amounting to an average of about 22% among males and 38% among females — they only partially portray the exclusion from the economic cycle that young people suffer. Official statistics indicate that about 90% of young women and about 40% of young men, who were not studying in the past couple of years, are either unemployed or part of the economically inactive groups.

Second, the level of participation of Moroccan youth in social and civic life is very low. It is remarkable that young people spend on average 80% of their time hanging out or doing personal and recreational activities that are highly unproductive. Meanwhile, their participation in productive civilian activities — such as volunteer work, clubs, associations or civic organizations — remains weak due to the lack of infrastructure capable of receiving and supporting these activities. Leaving school early and being unemployed amid a lack of support structures capable of facilitating social participation leads to isolation and frustration. This, in turn, makes young people vulnerable to risky and illegal behaviors.

Third, public opinion polls show that the majority of young people are complaining about the uncertainty and ambiguity surrounding their economic future. Education and skills are not enough to get a decent job, whether in the public or private sector, in the absence of personal or family connections. According to a modern research study conducted by the Gallup organization, one out of three young Moroccans wants to leave the country or is planning to do so because of bad expectations or due to the poor available opportunities, knowing that the desire to emigrate increases as the level of youth education increases.

Fourth, all of the young working people express dissatisfaction at the jobs they have because of the low wages they receive and the lack of a minimum level of job stability; four out of five employed youth haven’t signed an employment contract, which means that most of them work in the informal sector.

Fifth, despite the fact that many young people want to get a job in the public sector, few are those who would still prefer a job in the public sector if offered a good salary [in a private sector job]. Contrary to what is happening in many Arab countries, where young people wait years to get jobs in the government sector, this phenomenon is limited among Moroccan youth.

Most of the unemployed youth in Morocco have either low education levels or haven’t studied at all, and employment policies still focus on higher education graduates. Those who are least educated are left without any help. The mediation agency in the labor market, namely the National Agency for the Promotion of Employment and Skills, is still not well-known among young people, and only 8% of unemployed youth have benefited from its services, according to a recent study conducted by the World Bank.

The youth integration strategy adopted by Morocco aims to encourage the private sector to create employment opportunities by offering some tax exemptions to employers. It also aims to encourage the establishment of small enterprises through preferential loans for young entrepreneurs. Despite the importance of these initiatives, the main obstacle faced by this strategy remains the absence of a system to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the achievement of its objectives. On the other hand, the available programs target unemployed university graduates, whose number is relatively limited compared to the total number of young unemployed and economically inactive people.

There is a wide range of institutions and programs that seek to provide social services to young people. Their work, however, is characterized by a lack of coordination, which leads to a dispersion of efforts and resources, and some ambiguity and overlap in the roles. Most institutions suffer from a significant shortfall in resources and insufficient staffing. They suffer from weak utilities or incapacity to reach them, lack of necessary equipment and lack of modern mechanisms to evaluate and improve the quality of services.

Today, Morocco needs a more systematic and integrated approach aimed at achieving an effective development and integration for youth, one that clearly focuses on targeting the most disadvantaged youth groups. This country urgently needs to engage young people and encourage them to further participate in the political life, express their views in the public domain and hold local and governmental bodies to account.

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