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Moroccan Graduates Face an Uncertain Future despite Efforts to Promote Youth Employment – Jean R. AbiNader

Jean R. AbiNader
June 5, 2019

Jean R. AbiNader, Moroccan American Center

The Moroccan Ministry of Educationreleased the latest data on the number of students who will sit for the baccalaureate the week of June 11. Some 442,065 candidates, of whom 48% are female, are scheduled to take the exams. The baccalaureate is the key gauntlet through which high school students must pass to qualify for onward education. According to the report, candidates in the various fields are 244,776 in science and technology, 187,383 in literature and arts, 24,979 in the French and English international category, while 8,178 will take the professional baccalaureate covering technical, vocational, and professional skills and knowledge, an increase of almost 300% over 2018.

How they score on the baccalaureate will figure decisively in their options for further education. Yet, even those who score well and matriculate into one of Morocco’s universities will find job opportunities elusive as the gap between jobs and the number of skilled applicants is still challenging.

Prime Minister El Othmani, responding to criticism that the government wasn’t doing enough to close the gap despite the King’s strong messages and numerous initiatives, has set up a “vigilance committee” to oversee the job market, study unemployment, and make recommendations. “El Othmani said that the new committee will operate on the national, regional, and sectoral levels to evaluate how well policies, strategies, and plans are implemented,” according to a government statement. This latest push tracks the employment operation program for 2018-2021 approved last year as the roadmap for increasing efficiency and effectiveness in the education sector and linking it more closely to market demands.

The committee will be made up of more than 15 government ministries and agencies. It will monitor results achieved in various sectors and measure them against projected outcomes in terms of job creation. It will identify deficiencies, work on anticipating future job trends, and develop strategies to reach employment targets.  This will involve also bringing sectoral perspectives in line with national plans for job growth.

One of the weaknesses in current government efforts is too high a reliance on public sector employment, which increased by 138,791 in the last three years. When graduates expect that somehow they will go to work for the government, they may not acquire the skills needed for either self-employment or a job demanding technical skills. So far, in the same three-year period, government supported programs targeted 102,581 self-employed individuals, up from 32,400 in 2015. However, the unemployment rate of those ages 15 – 24 remains high at 24.1% as of April 2019.

The challenge is to develop well-paying and sustainable jobs across the diverse economy. According to the HCP figures, only 4,000 jobs were created by the industry sector in 2019’s first quarter as much of the new technology-based employment relies on robotics and automation. This is compared to the 114,000 jobs in the service sector. Meanwhile, 152,000 people lost their jobs in agriculture and fisheries.

The international donor community is doing its part to support youth employment in Morocco. Belgium announced a grant of about $4 million over four years to promote job creation and youth employment. Initially, it will focus on four regions: Beni Mellal-Khenifra, the eastern region, Fez-Meknes, and Draa-Tafilalet. The latest initiative builds on efforts started in 2016 and primarily focuses on youth in rural areas to help them develop as entrepreneurs.

The World Bank project, a loan of $54 million scheduled to run until 2024, is directed at improving access for youth to economic opportunities in the Marrakech-Safi region in three phases. The first is to create a regional network of youth employment centers to deliver professional training sessions to some 19,000 youth in the seven prefectures of the region. The second step is to develop the entrepreneurial sector through a regional program to support local micro, small, and medium-sized projects with high growth and employment potential. It is targeted at 25,000 youth beneficiaries and 1,500 jobs. The third phase is to “reinforce existing institutions that work on youth employment.”

Between Morocco and the international community, hundreds of millions of dollars have been allocated for the 2018-2021 effort. If strong partnerships with the private sector can be developed as CGEM and others are building, more of Morocco’s students will find opportunities to build their skills and careers.

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