Morocco: New, Democratic Government Seeks Immediate Unemployment Solutions
By Morocco News Agency Staff
Rabat, Morocco --- 21 January 2012 ... On January 19, five young Moroccans set themselves on fire near a building of the Morocco Ministry of Education in Rabat. The five were saved by passersby, but three had to be hospitalized. They were part of widespread demonstrations all over Morocco protesting unemployment, especially among university graduates.
One of the young people who set himself on fire explained that he wanted to focus attention on the plight and desperation of the young unemployed. The leftist opposition daily Libération commented in an Editorial that the self-immolation was attempted in order “to protest against delays or indifference in the treatment of their case despite the commitment of the new Benkirane government.”
These five young men put a human face on one of the greatest challenges facing Moroccan society - and not just the incoming Abdelillah Benkirane government.
Overall, unemployment in Morocco stands at 9.6% - a fairly average rate in the West given the economic crisis. However, unemployment in Morocco is not spread equally throughout the country or population segments. Among the veteran work force, unemployment hit hard on the predominantly rural population. Unemployment skyrockets to 31.4% of those under the age of 34.
Another hard hit population grouping are university graduates - the key to Morocco’s future development.
According to the Moroccan agency of employment, 27% of the university graduates cannot find work in their profession, with the greatest difficulty lies in getting a professionally, suitable job in public service. Taking into consideration the graduates who find work outside their expertise and below expectations - the overall unemployment rate among university graduates is “only” around 16%.
Indeed, both the government’s macro-economic plan and the government’s plan as articulated by Abdelillah Benkirane in his address to the plenary session of the Parliament highlight the issue of unemployment and stress the urgent imperative to alleviate the plight of the unemployed youth and graduates.
Benkirane promised to bring down unemployment in Morocco from 9.6% to 8.0% within five years. However, the real challenge is in addressing the employment potential for the youth and graduates.
Indeed, as discussed before, the macro-economic plan of the Benkirane government does include specific programs to increase quality employment in the public sector as well as encourage and induce the private sector to employ more.
In a statement right after his speech in Parliament, Benkirane stressed that “the crux of the government’s plans is to target national economic growth which in turn would boost the employment sector.”
Morocco Government Spokesman and Information Minister Mostapha Khalfi added that: “the new program aims to meet the people’s expectations and deal with various social issues by introducing relevant policies in key aspects such as employment, housing and education.”
The youth and public at large have great expectations from Benkirane - as the latest polls conducted in the aftermath of Benkirane’s speech indicate. The polls illustrate that overall 88% of Moroccans are optimistic (61%) or very optimistic (27%) about Benkirane and his government (an increase from 82% in late November 2011), and only 8% of Moroccans are worried or very worried.
Among the two youth groupings, between 18-24 and 30-39 years old respectively, there is great enthusiasm, but also higher rates of anxiety - 15% and 17% respectively - which reflect the discontent over poor employment prospects.
Most important for Benkirane should be the opinion of Morocco’s wealthiest - the engines of the private sector Benkirane is determined to rejuvenate. Among these, 10% are very optimistic and 64% are optimistic. Benkirane will therefore get a brief period of grace to set his economic plans in motion for Morocco. Unemployment will be one of the most discernible areas where quick impact is already anticipated by the public.
Meanwhile, the attempted self-immolation in Rabat is already having an effect on street politics and Parliament. The leaders of the two main opposition parties announced they will not vote confidence in the Benkirane government when the vote takes place.