Moroccan youth have been at a turning point for several years. Four out of five unemployed people are aged between 15 and 34, i.e. the younger generations are the main victims of the lack of opportunities to find their first job in the country. It is true that the situation varies depending on the area of origin, city or countryside, or whether one is male or female. In large cities, young people are less likely to find employment compared to the people living in the countryside. The situation of many women is even worse because, in a country with such strict religious beliefs, women do not enjoy the recognition they have in Western societies.
This situation is causing structural problems that feature a variety of endogenous and exogenous factors. The population in Morocco is increasing and getting younger and the internal economy is not capable of meeting the demand for so many jobs. The private sector lacks the ‘muscle’ to provide young people with decent contracts. Education is also becoming an obstacle as it has failed to teach the skills that the labour market needs.
This is resulting in significant social inequalities and the impoverishment of Moroccans. Perhaps the worst consequence for the country is the loss of human capital, a key factor today.
This analysis reflects the daily lives of many young Moroccans who, given the situation in their native country, decide to leave in large numbers and Spain, given its geographical proximity, is one of the favourite destinations for these youth. But what about those who decide to stay and struggle for a better future?
‘Unemployed graduates’, the name given to the umbrella organisation that bring together the main demands aimed at the government in Rabat, emerged in the 1990s. Its organisational capacity grew until its presence covered much of the country. Their political activism is well known and they alternate peaceful demonstrations with other more aggressive actions – plundering and occupations in most of the cases – against government decisions.
But there have also been cases in which young ‘unemployed graduates’ have staged bonzo style burnings to call for their demands to be employed as civil servants to be accepted without any opposition. Mohamed Madani, political scientist and university lecturer, believes that the treatment given by successive governments for years to this issue has alternated between “systematic repression” and “filtered hiring”.
The direct hiring of hundreds or thousands of young people was due to very specific situations. The largest mass hiring operation took place in 2011 when almost 40,000 people became civil servants in what was seen as a way of appeasing the movement that, in Morocco, as in other Arab countries, seemed to be taking control of the streets.
However, the new Islamic government chose to end the direct hiring of civil servants, a position of strength that has been challenged by a judicial ruling of the Administrative Court, according to which the current government must honour a commitment signed by the previous administration to provide public employment to 2,840 graduates.
Despite the lawsuits and the many articles written in the Moroccan press on this issue, the fact remains that unemployment among young people is on the increase. They have already expressed their demands in the street, but it is not easy for the government to accept their demands when the country is going through a severe economic downturn and its economic potential is far from optimal for job creation.