Morocco’s official Planning Directorate revealed shocking figures last week concerning the labour market and the millions of unemployed youth in a country where they make up 75 per cent of the population. Among the alarming statistics is that around 1.7 million young people aged between 15 and 24 — 1.3 million of them women — are “neither in employment, education nor training.”
The Moroccan population is officially estimated at 33 million people. The number of young people living on the margins of society outside work, study or training thus represents a frightening 2 per cent of the country’s population. The grave significance of this statistic, which was issued by an official department whose data is seen as highly reliable in Morocco and abroad, is that it concerns mainly young people who are at the start of their lives, the vast majority of whom are young women. This exposes the injustices that Moroccan women continue to face despite all the policies and laws enacted in recent years to promote gender equality and equity, which must begin with full access to the right to study and training in order to ensure equal opportunities within the labour market.
According to the directorate, the majority of Morocco’s educated youth are unemployed. There are an estimated 854,000 unemployed graduates, 47 per cent of whom hold higher degrees. If these young people, with all their degrees and diplomas, have not found work, what hope is there for the others who have not gone through higher education?
These disturbing figures should ring alarm bells because they indicate the existence of an “army of reservists” abandoned on the margins of a society that is striving to grow and develop. If we do not pay attention to this group, it will continue to be a ticking time bomb ready to explode at any moment.
What is positive in all this is that these alarming figures that reveal one aspect of Moroccan reality have been issued by a governmental body.
It is true that Morocco has made significant progress in recent years in terms of developing its infrastructure and has managed to develop some cutting-edge industries such as the construction of cars and aircraft parts. It has also achieved remarkable progress in meeting its energy needs from alternative energy sources. However, in contrast with all of these advances, social policies in Morocco are still deficient in all of the sensitive and vital sectors that are critical to development such as education, health and employment. These deficiencies can be summarised as a “lack of social justice”, which means that the fruits of progress do not necessarily reach all sections of society to an equal or fair extent.
Just after it gained independence, Morocco focused its economic plans on social sectors that placed people at their centre. Since the beginning of the 1980s, and under pressure from international financial institutions and lenders, the state has been forced to abandon social policies gradually, leading to the situation we have today, as revealed by these latest, shocking statistics. At the beginning of the new millennium, Morocco’s economic policies focused on investment in infrastructure such as roads and ports. The underlying assumption was that these policies would develop society from the top down, after social policies had failed to develop it from the bottom up. However, the outcome was that the benefits of these policies were reaped by a minority who accumulated wealth, while the majority were abandoned and forgotten. This resulted in a widening gap between a small wealthy class and a large, poor, lower class that is growing daily as a result of the rapid erosion of the middle class, which has almost disappeared in Morocco today.
One of the contributing factors to this is the rampant corruption that successive governments throughout the past two decades have failed to curb. In a report issued by Transparency International at the beginning of 2017, Morocco was ranked 90th out of 176 countries covered. Morocco is far from meeting the standards achieved by the least corrupt countries in the world.
Morocco was ranked 90th among the 176 countries covered in the Transparency International report
One of the factors underlying the stability of states is social harmony. Such harmony cannot be achieved through a purely security-based approach; it requires a just distribution of wealth so that no member of society is forgotten and left to live on the margins. The former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali adopted a security policy that was considered to be a model for “controlling” society. His governments used to provide false statistics on the “welfare” of the Tunisian people. However, deep within society there was a spontaneous mobilisation waiting to erupt; it eventually did, and produced the “Jasmine Revolution”. This revealed another reality that had nothing to do with the false figures of Ben Ali’s regime.
What is positive in the Moroccan case is that the alarming statistics on the situation in Morocco today were issued by an official government department. They serve as a testimony from a domestic institution presenting a self-diagnosis voluntarily and issuing a stark warning. What is more important is how to respond to this warning before it is too late.
Translated from Al Araby Al Jadid , 15 February, 2017
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.