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Moroccan Youth

Youth of Morocco - Unemployment forces many higher educated young Moroccans to join traditional family businesses to generate a basic income / Photo Fanack
Unemployment forces many higher educated young Moroccans to join traditional family businesses to generate a basic income / Photo Fanack

In early 1991, there were demonstrations in nearly every Moroccan city, protesting economic conditions (salaries, social security, and retirement benefits), which were of concern to the trade unions, and the participation of the Moroccan army in the Gulf War alongside the Americans, which angered Islamists and some leftists. In Salé, the twin city of Rabat, 300 people occupied a public building and organized a hunger strike. A survey of the protesters showed that only a third were over thirty and more than half were women, but more than a third had degrees, and another third held the baccalaureate certificate needed to enter university. Education did not guarantee employment: in 1990, 9.6 percent of the unemployed had tertiary education, and things have since got worse: the figure in 2005 was 22 percent.

Youth unemployment is a problem across the board. The proportion of Moroccans aged 14 or younger is falling (from 47.5 percent in 1970 to 39.7 percent in 1990 to 28 percent in 2010), and the overall unemployment rate seems to be doing the same (23 percent in 1995, 10 percent in 2009). Yet youth unemployment (ages 15-24) is much higher that general unemployment: 22 percent in 2009 (young women were slightly better off than young men, 19.4 percent against 22.8 percent).

The figures necessarily omit the many migrants who leave Morocco to work in Europe, both legally and illegally (see Workforce and labour migration). These are predominantly male (though the number of females is increasing) and single, with an average age of 27. The figures are not, however, skewed by military conscription: military service, which begins at age 20, is voluntary in Morocco (Index Mundi).

Clearly, though, all official figures must be treated with caution, particularly with regard to the relatively low rate of child labour. In 2004 (the last years for which figures are available) 4.5 percent of children aged between 7 and 14 were recorded as being economically active, mainly in agriculture, a clue that the child-labour figures might be unreliably low because of the difficulty of measuring rural employment.

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