Monday, March 15, 2010

Unemployment in Morocco

by Brigitta Burks

edited by Alexandru Cristea

A high rate of youth unemployment in Morocco has led highly educated, but jobless citizens to protest daily in front of the Parliament in Rabat. Nearly 40 percent of the youths, ranging from 15-29 years old, are unemployed, according to Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), an organization working toward poverty alleviation. The total unemployment rate is at 9 percent.

Adil Sadoq runs MEDA’s Morocco and Egypt field projects out of Casablanca. He said although most of the protestors are highly educated with master’s degrees, his work tends to target the “middle-class” who usually have high school degrees or other training. The youth unemployment problem stems from Morocco’s education system, Sadoq explained. The system trains students for government work, which is largely unavailable.

“The answer to the need is enterprise,” Sadoq said.

To create youth enterprise, MEDA helps young people create savings accounts, provides them with training and loans, and arranges internships for them. The program mostly targets the youths in villages and small cities in the east and south. One Southern woman, only identified as Bahija, took advantage of the free job training and now runs a small sewing business from her home. She attributed her success to MEDA, which taught her to save her earnings. She and her husband now employ other locals in their business.

Internships are another core part of MEDA’s occupation opportunities in Morocco. It offers $80 a month to supplement unpaid internships. MEDA also ensures that interns get real work experience and keeps close tabs on the internship programs. Many Moroccan youths also are enrolled in universities in Morocco, France and a few in the United States. Ahmed Radi, a professor at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech, Morocco, said some of his students are concerned about finding a job after graduation.

“I think the worry is there,” he said, adding that if students work hard, they likely will find a job.

One of Radi’s students, Hassan Chikh, said his uncle, who has a Ph.D in physics, used to protest in front of Parliament until he found a job. When asked if he would consider protesting if he couldn’t find work after graduation, Chikh said yes, but added of protesting, “It’s not that rewarding.”

Chikh will graduate from Cadi Ayyad University next year and after that he said he hopes to earn a masters degree so he can become a translator. Still, finding a suitable job is already on Chikh’s mind.

He said, “My family will start worrying,” if he does not find a job within two years of completing school. “It will be really heart-breaking.”

Casablanca native, Bouchra Kachoub, now a master’s degree student and Arabic teacher at Ohio University, said that young Moroccans often stay with their family until marriage even if they find a job.

Some young people abuse that privilege, Kachoub added.

“You have to do something,” she said, although she added “Your parents will never mind,” if you stay at home and live on their money.

However, Sadoq said he noticed a change in the traditional Moroccan family structure when the young people took advantage of programs like MEDA.

“I was impressed with 21 and 22 year-olds taking care of their families (financially),” he said.

Kachoub said she may return to Morocco after graduation to teach English. However, she said that most academic institutes want native English speakers to teach English, which could leave her as one of the young and unemployed.

Still, she added, “I am optimistic.”

Her degree from the United States may aid her in her job hunt.

“It has value, even before you get back,” she said, explaining that many students get offers while they are still completing their degrees overseas.

Regardless, educated youths, like Kachoub and Chikh, may have an even harder time finding work than illiterate peasants in Morocco.

“Whatever job they find, they do it,” Sadoq said of illiterate class.

About 48 percent of Morocco’s population cannot read, according to the Central Intelligence Agency. The work that the illiterate youths often find is construction or manual labor.

Factories and call centers are another large employer in Morocco, Kachoub said, adding, “an illiterate person will always find a job.”

Educated Moroccans often will not take jobs like these even when they are desperate for cash. Unemployment for Moroccans with degrees is at 17 percent while unemployment for Moroccans without degrees is 4 percent, according to MEDA.

“If you are really highly qualified, you may not find a job that meets your qualifications,” Kachoub explained.

She said that she believes if young people took other employment while they searched for their dream jobs, youth unemployment could go down.

“You can be a secretary while you’re looking for a teaching job,” Kachoub said.

Many people still look to the government to solve the problem.

“I think the government is really aware of it (youth unemployment),” Radi said.

One measure the government has taken is offering early retirement to teachers to make room for younger educators like her, Kachoub indicated. However, some say there is nothing the government can do.

“The government cannot help them (the unemployed) anymore,” Sadoq said.

He added that he thinks practical solutions, like those that MEDA offers, are the answer.

Kachoub and Chikh said they believe the perfect job is out there for them.

“Of course, you have to make the effort,”Kachoub also said.

Photos courtesy of and

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