“Young people in Morocco make up 30 % of the population, and one tenth of the MENA region’s total youth population and all reports indicate that young people aged between 15 and 24 years old, representing nearly a fifth of the population of Morocco, where the estimated number of 2011 about 6.3 million people, 50.6 % were male and 49.4 female. About 55.7 % of young people live in urban areas, representing 18.3 % of the total urban population, while the youth represents 21.2 % of the total population of rural areas. Young people represent the future of Morocco, and to overcome what they suffer from exclusion, exceeding the widespread absence in their midst for any professional or academic activity can have a significant impact on the progress and prosperity of the country.

In recent years, the status of young people in Morocco marked improvement, however many of them still suffer from dilemmas related to their occupations and their willingness to engage in the process and social life, as well as the fact that a big percentage of Moroccan youth are neither in school, nor workforce. Young people in Morocco have been excluded from the opportunities that some sectors of the country’s economy benefitted from, and thus, unemployment rates were not providing the full picture of the labor market disadvantages or the economic exclusion of young people.

Moroccan youth suffer strongly of total unemployment and underemployment, as they often wait years to get a house, get married, and have children. As a result , the marriage rates among young people in the age group between 25 and 29 years is one of the lowest rates in the developing world , where not more than 50 %. Although youth unemployment rates in Morocco are high, amounting to an average of about 22% among males and 38% among females, they only partially portray the exclusion from the economic cycle that young people suffer. Official statistics indicate that about 90% of young women and about 40% of young men, who were not studying in the past couple of years, are either unemployed or part of the economically inactive groups. The bulk of unemployed youth have less than a secondary education or no education at all. In the big pie of the unemployed youth, less than 5 % have tertiary education.

Public opinion polls show that the majority of young people are complaining about the uncertainty and ambiguity surrounding their economic future. Education and skills are not enough to get a decent job, whether in the public or private sector, in the absence of personal or family connections. As a result, one out of three young Moroccans wants to leave the country or is planning to do so because of bad expectations or due to the poor available opportunities, knowing that the desire to emigrate increases as the level of youth education increases.

Despite the fact that many young people want to get a job in the public sector, few are those who would still prefer a job in the public sector if offered a good salary (in a private sector job). Contrary to what is happening in many Arab countries, where young people wait years to get jobs in the government sector, this phenomenon is limited among Moroccan youth. All of the young working people express dissatisfaction at the jobs they have because of the low wages they receive and the lack of a minimum level of job stability; four out of five employed youth haven’t signed an employment contract, which means that most of them work in the informal sector.

Most of the unemployed youth in Morocco have either low education levels or haven’t studied at all, and employment policies still focus on higher education graduates. Those who are least educated are left without any help. The mediation agency in the labor market, namely the National Agency for the Promotion of Employment and Skills (ANAPEC) is still not well-known among young people, and only 8% of unemployed youth have benefited from its services.

The youth integration strategy adopted by Morocco aims to encourage the private sector to create employment opportunities by offering some tax exemptions to employers. It also aims to encourage the establishment of small enterprises through preferential loans for young entrepreneurs. Despite the importance of these initiatives, the main obstacle faced by this strategy remains the absence of a system to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the achievement of its objectives. On the other hand, the available programs target unemployed university graduates, whose number is relatively limited compared to the total number of young unemployed and economically inactive people.

The level of participation of Moroccan youth in social and civic life is very low. It is remarkable that young people spend on average 80% of their time hanging out or doing personal and recreational activities that are highly unproductive. Meanwhile, their participation in productive civilian activities, such as volunteer work, clubs, associations or civic organizations, remains weak due to the lack of infrastructure capable of receiving and supporting these activities. Leaving school early and being unemployed amid a lack of support structures capable of facilitating social participation leads to isolation and frustration. This, in turn, makes young people vulnerable to risky and illegal behaviors.

Despite these problems, the recent changes witnessed by Morocco reveal the will and efforts to address the challenges faced by this age group. Today, Morocco needs a more systematic and integrated approach aimed at achieving an effective development and integration for youth, one that clearly focuses on targeting the most disadvantaged youth groups. This country urgently needs to engage young people and encourage them to further participate in the political life, express their views in the public domain and hold local and governmental bodies to account.”

Amina Ikli