Labor Market Policies in Morocco: The Challenges of Job Creation and Enhancing Skills for Better Employability

Labor Market Policies in Morocco: The Challenges of Job Creation and Enhancing Skills for Better Employability

MIPA Institute10 February 202235min2770
Morocco like other MENA countries has high unemployment rates among highly educated job seekers.

 

Labor Market Policies in Morocco: The Challenges of Job Creation and Enhancing Skills for Better Employability

 

Policy Dialogue Series 2021/2022

January 25th, 2022, Rabat, Morocco

 

 

Background

Morocco has made significant economic progress over the past 20 years, which has raised the living standards of its people. Today, Morocco is considered one of the most competitive economies in Africa and ranks 5th in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) volume (IMF, 2021). The GDP per capita growth was estimated at 2.1% on average in the period from 2010 to 2019, which was higher than the average 1.0% growth rate in the MENA region (excluding high income countries).  Per capita income doubled between 2000 and 2019, while the poverty rate fell to one-third of its 2000 level, and literacy rates and health outcomes improved, along with access to basic infrastructure such as water and electricity. However, Morocco’s economic growth has not been labor-intensive enough to absorb its growing working-age population. The country is also characterized by a large informal sector, high rates of inactivity, low female labor force participation, a prevalence of low-value-added services, and a difficult business environment, especially for start-ups and young firms[1].

According to recent data by the High Commission for Planning, in 2020, unemployment among youth (aged 15-24 years) has reached 31.2% and 18.5% among youth graduates[2]. As far as female labor force participation is concerned, Morocco fits within the MENA region trend[3] with a meagre 19.9%[4], well below the world average of 47.3%[5](World Bank, 2019). Furthermore, the rate of youth (ages 15-24) who are not employed, out of school and without training (NEETs) has reached about 28.5% in 2019 (ONDH). A recent publication by the World Bank brings this estimate to about 30%[6]. In fact, NEETs are predominantly young women who make upward of 76.4% of the total NEETs population. Thus, the complex plethora of current labor market issues brings about the necessity to prioritize the quality of jobs as much as their availability.

Another key factor that needs to be considered in assessing labor market performance, beyond the decline in the official unemployment figures, is the nature and quality of jobs created. The informal sector played an important role in the process of job creation in Morocco over the last decade. In fact, the size of the informal economy in Morocco constitutes between 30 and 40% of GDP[7]. More than a third of Moroccan workers are already in the informal economy, doing manual or domestic labor, driving taxis or selling in the streets, accounting for 14% of gross domestic product. Additionally, the Covid-19 crisis is expected to expand this informal economy as people lose their jobs in companies and consumers seek the cheaper goods and services provided by workers who are not registered with the state’s pension fund.

Morocco like other MENA countries also has high unemployment rates among highly educated job seekers. While the “demand side” argument, which focuses on the inability of the economy to create highly skilled work, cannot be ignored, this phenomenon also reveals the poor quality of education. Morocco has witnessed a rapid expansion in the supply of education services over the last two decades resulting in impressive improvements in access to education, enrolment, and attainment. Between 2000 and 2016, the gross enrolment rate in primary education increased from 85 to 98 percent, in lower secondary education from 60 to 88 percent, and in upper secondary education from 37 to 66 percent[8]. However, this has not resulted in improvements in learning, illustrated by weak results in national and international student learning assessments (TIMSS 2015, PISA 2019, etc.). To reduce skills mismatch, Morocco has increasingly relied on improving and extending the vocational training system, with a significant jump in both the number of trainees and the network of institutions. Consequently, Morocco’s ratio of vocational trainees is today higher than the MENA region average (Boudarbat & Engel, 2014). Despite these efforts, job prospects for vocational training graduates remain weak. Indeed, the unemployment rate among trainees is quite high at 24.5% in 2017 compared to 16% for general education graduates[9]. Furthermore, the unemployment rate increases with the level of vocational training received. For vocational training graduates employed, 33% of them (compared to 11% of those in general education) occupy positions at levels below their qualification[10].

 

Overall, Morocco’s labor market is characterized by three key challenges:

  • Lack of inclusion: Youth and women are less integrated into the labor market. Female labor force participation is particularly low. Youth participation has declined as the share of youth staying in school more than doubled. While this indicates better skill enhancement, youth unemployment rate also increased, especially among higher educated youth, signifying difficulty at entry.
  • Slow job growth: Job creation has not been sufficient to absorb the inflow of working-age population. Formal employment is concentrated in older and larger firms while small and medium enterprises face numerous constraints to operate and expand.
  • Low quality of jobs: Informality dominates the labor market. The growth of non-agricultural employment is slow and employment in the services sector is concentrated in low-skilled services. Productivity is low, and workers lack sufficient mechanisms for protection and social dialogues.

Nevertheless, there are opportunities to strengthen the Moroccan labor market and increase its contribution to Morocco’s economic growth. It is up to the Government to improve the functioning of the labor market, especially on the demand side to generate more and better jobs. This requires a more transparent and flexible regulatory framework to encourage private sector development. At the same time, complementary supply-side policies could be important to improve educational attainment and remove the entry barriers for youth and women.

 

Objective

The main objective of this policy dialogue is to provide a platform for creating synergies between policy entrepreneurs and stakeholders and stimulate dialogue on issues pertaining to the labor market in Morocco. Despite consensus on the urgency of investing in both quantity and quality of jobs, efforts remain low-scaled and fragmented between multiple actors. In these lines, the policy dialogue aims to:

  • Achieve a consensus on enhanced coordination and harmonization of efforts amongst all the stakeholders and minimize duplication of actions through a joint understanding of labor market issues;
  • Identify key policies and institutional frameworks that will facilitate and accelerate the implementation of the National Employment Strategy;
  • Stimulate exchange on strategies for creating economic inclusion and labor market conditions favorable for employment and decent jobs creation.

 

Target audience

The dialogue targets:

  • Policy Entrepreneurs: whom have a vested interest and resources in the policy issue (policy makers, technical experts in the policy area, researchers, professionals, civil servants)
  • Other stakeholders: NGOs, research institutions, professional associations, local funding partners and other civil society organizations that also have key roles to play through aligning their aims and activities with the overall policy and planning cycle. These groups of actors also have an important advocacy role, i.e., bringing attention to priority issues and offering options to solve them.

While the participants meet in person, the event is conducted under Chatham House Rule, which means “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

 

Policy Dialogue Themes
  • Enhancing Active Labor Market Policies in Morocco

In a context of growing global economic pressures with unemployment standing close to 6.4% globally (ILO, 2020), Morocco needs to search for ways to stimulate job creation and improve quality of labor market conditions given the current rising general unemployment rate of 12.8% (HCP, 2021). A dynamic and inclusive labor market is one of the pillars for economic growth, poverty reduction, social inclusion and development.

In 2000, the active labor market policy in Morocco took a qualitative step forward with the creation of the National Agency for the Promotion of Employment and Competencies (ANAPEC). This public agency is designed to (i) implement active labor market policies (ALMPs) (ii) to connect employers to job seeker, and (iii) to provide information and guidance to job seekers and young entrepreneurs.  Not far, three main programs were set up in 2006. The first, called “Taehil “, aims to improve the match between the profile of job seekers and the needs of the market, through contractualized training, skills training or retraining. The second program, called “Moukawalati” and renamed “self-employment”, aims to promote entrepreneurship and business creation through training and financial assistance. The third program, “Idmaj”, is a subsidized employment program which supports the transition of youth from school to work through company placements through improving the employability by offering to the targeted unemployed a professional experience through 24-month internships and also increasing the share of high skilled and of qualified employees by giving incentives for firms to hire the young graduates.

Other ministries have also implemented actions within the themes of:

  • Youth integration, which include plans to improve the training system and integrate youth into the labor market through internships or skill matching;
  • Employment, which aims to increase overall employment and productivity;
  • Microenterprise promotion, which intends to support Microenterprise financing;
  • Other sectoral plans aiming to promote job creation through enhancing macroeconomic conditions, such as Morocco’s Global Jobs and Moroccan Green Plan, as well as sectoral policies such as compensation reform, flexible exchange rate policy, pro-growth sector strategies, and accelerate an expanding of social welfare protection to all its citizens[11].

However, among the questions to discuss:

  • To what extent does ALMP participation affect the attitudes of unemployed individuals and how does this affect their labor market behavior in Morocco?
  • How ALMPs can contribute to the development of social protection floors, and can serve as a crucial element to protect workers against unexpected risks during their working life?

 

  • Economic Growth and Decent Jobs Creation

The need for enhancing work environments is an underlying condition to achieve inclusion in the labor market. The concept of “decent work” has been defined by the International Labor Organization (ILO) as “opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity[12]. In this sense, fostering decent work opportunities for all segments of the working population including women becomes crucial in shaping social and economic policies to achieve sustainable development. The main tenets of decent work agenda, as shaped by the ILO, namely employment creation and provision, access to social protection, fostering social dialogue and rights at the work place, construct a framework for developing said policies for the labor market. In fact, the formulation and development of decent work policies is particularly crucial for developing and emerging markets, like Morocco, for several reasons. Issues related to prevalence of the informal sector and low coverage of social protection programs as well as structural issues in the labor market, are among few.

Integrating women in the labor force also presented its fair share of opportunities and challenges to Morocco. While some advances have been realized – such as removing legal barriers to women’s employment or increasing access to micro-credit – women continue to experience fewer economic rights, wages and employment opportunities than men, and are confronted with traditional gendered norms on their roles and responsibilities within the household[13]. The status of women in the labor force in Morocco is a result of both complex and intersectional issues that have led to structural low labor force participation. Morocco still ranks in the bottom 20 percent of countries in the world in terms of female participation in the labor force and very little actual progress  on  women’s  economic  participation  took  place  over  the past  twenty  years[14]. Women’s labor force participation rate between 1999 and 2019 was extremely low (decreasing from 30% to 21%), compared to that of men, fluctuating between 71% and 79%. Place of dwelling is also a factor. In urban areas, from 1999 to 2019, female activity rates hovered around 20%, compared to 78% for males. In rural areas, for the same period, female participation rates ranged from 30 to 40%, versus 68% for men.[15]

The reach and impact of decent work policies partially hinges on both the creation of growth that would spillover to quantity job creation, and the acceleration of structural transformations, that would result in more quality jobs with workers transitioning from lower-productivity to higher-productivity occupations. In recent years, the productivity growth in manufacturing sector benefited from expansion of capital-intensive and high value-added activities mainly in Morocco’s biggest economic hubs (such as Tangiers and Casablanca). To benefit from this momentum, productivity growth should result in a reallocation of resources between sectors and geographic regions. The spillovers from productivity will help foster the creation of more decent jobs along the value chain mainly through the growth of high value-added jobs. Aspiring to this outcome, Morocco adopted a set of overarching policies that aim at creating cross-sectoral synergies which need to be further strengthened with development-oriented policies promoting productive activities, the creation of decent jobs, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation and stimulating the growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and facilitating their integration into the formal sector, including through access to financial services.

Among the questions that need to be addressed:

  • How can we align policies for productivity growth to those for the creation of high value-added jobs that provide decent working conditions?
  • What would it take to fundamentally transform growth patterns to increase quality job creation over the next decade?
  • How can Morocco benefit from its population’s potential through the inclusion of women in the workplace?
  • How can Morocco ensure that the role of women in the workplace is central to efforts in fostering economic growth?

 

  • Emerging Labor Markets: Challenges and Opportunities

The Industry 4.0 has profound implications for how to best prepare people for the changing world of work, particularly in the area of higher technical skills and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).  A wave of new technologies appears to be emerging that many speculate will not only boost productivity but also increase rates of labor market disruption. The global shift to a future of work is defined by an ever-expanding cohort of new technologies, by new sectors and markets, by global economic systems that are more interconnected than in any other point in history, and by information that travels fast and spreads wide. While past waves of technological innovation have had enormous positive impacts, including on per-capita GDP growth, all have had some disruptive impacts, including on incumbent firms, workers, and communities. Additionally, as a result of the COVID-19 recession, day-to-day digitalization has leapt forward, with a large-scale shift to remote working and e-commerce, driving a surge in work-from-home arrangements and a new marketplace for remote work. However, it has also brought about significant well-being challenges as workers have struggled to adapt to new ways of work over a short period of time[16]. While it is not the role of governments to protect businesses from innovative competitors, it is their role to help workers and communities make effective transitions.

The digital transformation, automation, artificial intelligence, robotics, block chain, all are expanding to encompass all economic activities and will doubly change the structure of the labor market. While digital transformation presents opportunities, it also poses new risks for economies, which pressure to adopt adequate public policies. High mobile phone penetration, wide internet coverage and advances in e-commerce are some of the advantages despite pressing need to build infrastructure and increase human capital accumulation in this field to cultivate innovation. With a mobile phone penetration rate of about 60%, Morocco also has an internet access rate of 48% with 4G coverage extending to almost all its territory. The broadening of access to digital tools can stimulate economic growth and, thus, create a new dynamic in the labor market and propose new solutions for long standing issues such as youth unemployment. In the same time, as the economy moves to more digitally intense activities, considerable shifts in the structure of employment, such as occupations, tasks and skills, may occur. Structural labor market issues will be much more difficult to tackle in the foreseeable future due to the widening gaps between new job tasks requirements and the ability of workers to meet them.

To address the substantial challenges facing the labor market today, Moroccan government must pursue a holistic approach, creating active linkages and coordination between education providers, skills, workers and employers, and ensuring effective collaboration between employment agencies, regional governments and national governments. Such efforts can be strengthened by multi-stakeholder collaboration between companies looking to support their workforce; governments willing to fund reskilling and the localization of mid-career education programs; professional services firms and technology firms that can map potential job transitions or provide reskilling services; labor unions aware of the impact of those transitions on the well-being of workers; and community organizations that can give visibility to the efficacy of new legislation and provide early feedback on its design.

Building upon the previously described structural issues in Morocco’s labor market, one of the questions we can ask:

  • How can Morocco prepare the labor market for the digital transformation?

 

About The Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis (MIPA)

The Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis (MIPA) is a non-profit independent policy research institution based in Rabat, Morocco. Founded by a group of trans-disciplinary researchers, MIPA’s mission is to produce systematic and in-depth analysis of relevant policy issues (political, social, economic, and cultural) that lead to new and innovative ideas for solving some of the most pressing issues relating to democracy.

MIPA’s main activity is to produce systematic, in-depth, accurate and impartial analyses of policy relevant issues. MIPA publishes findings and analyses in the form of policy briefs, research articles and thematic reports. All our publications are published in our website: https://mipa.institute/ar or https://mipa.institute/eng

Each year, MIPA organizes an annual policy forum bringing together researchers, policy makers and government officials to discuss, debate, and reflect on a specific policy theme.

The third main activity of the MIPA is to train young activists, researchers and academics in the policy analysis domain. The aim of the trainings is to prepare the next generation of researchers and academics to take the next step in their careers and build their skills to be able to produce in-depth effective analyses of policy relevant matters. MIPA´s main goals and objectives are translations of what MIPA stands for. Through its work and the different activities it organizes, MIPA seeks to:

  • Contribute to the public debate on political issues;
  • Publish policy papers, analytical articles and thematic reports;
  • Provide advice and expertise to governmental and civil society organizations;
  • Promote research ethics;
  • Encourage analytical and critical thinking;
  • Prepare young researchers and academics to take the next step in their careers;
  • Encourage cooperation between the different public and non-public research institutions with shared interests and values.

 

Moroccan Policy Dialogue 2021/2022

The Public Policy Dialogue series 2021/2022 is a formal forum organized by the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis (MIPA). It is held monthly, gathering participants from the government, development partners, international institutions, researchers, experts and civil society to discuss emerging public policy issues, challenges and constraints of implementation in the context of Morocco.

The purpose of these series is to deepen awareness and introduce a profound critical policy dialogue between the specialists in the domain of public policy analysis and decision-makers to achieve a thorough diagnosis of policies, multi-sectoral and community-based strategies while constructively criticizing them, proposing policy alternatives and thinking of potential options. These dialogues also provide an opportunity to inform the broader discourse, build consensus and improve understanding on pertinent issues. Therefore, every participant plays a role as both a knowledge holder and knowledge recipient and actively engages in a thought-provoking, frank and constructive discussion.

While the participants meet in person, the event is conducted under Chatham House Rule, which means “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

The Public Policy Dialogue series 2021/2022 hope to get a structured dialogue that will create both the learning opportunity and the space for collaboration and joint problem solving. Each policy dialogue event will maintain a half/one day (3-6 hours) time frame in respect of the heavy workload of participants but to limit the reporting component of each meeting as well as the number of subjects to be considered overall. A few weeks following each policy dialogue, a policy brief will be produced and disseminated, summarizing the main points discussed and suggesting recommendations to be followed. The brief will be written in Arabic and English languages.

 

Footnotes

[1] World Bank, 2021, Morocco’s Jobs Landscape.

[2]See « Activité, emploi et chômage, premiers résultats (annuel), 2020 », in www.hcp.ma

[3]The MENA region (excluding high income) average female labor force participation was just about 17.3% in 2019, see World Bank (2019), in data.worldbank.org

[4]In comparison, 70.4% of men in age of activity participated in the labor market in 2020 (HCP, 2021).

[5]See World Bank (2019), in data.worldbank.org

[6] Federica Alfani, Fabio Clementi, Michele Fabiani, Vasco Molini, Enzo Valentini, May 2020, « Once NEET, Always NEET? A Synthetic Panel Approach to Analyze the Moroccan Labor Market », World Bank Policy Research Working Paper N° 9238.

[7] See Schneider et al (2010).

[8] World Bank. (2020). Morocco: Skills Development for Employment. 

[9] IMF. (2019). The Macroeconomic Effects of Labor and Product Market Reforms in Morocco. https://doi.org/10.5089/9781513513768.001

[10] Ibid

[11] See Labor Market in Morocco: Challenges and Opportunities. World Bank, 2018, in https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/morocco/publication/labor-market-in-morocco-challenges-and-opportunities

[12]ILO, 1999, p.3

[13] UN Women. (2016). Progress of the World’s Women 2015-2016, Transforming economies, realising rights, New York: UN Women.

[14] The World Bank .(2015). Morocco, Mind the Gap: Empowering Women for a more open, Inclusive and Prosperous Society.

[15] Policy Center for the New South. (2021). Economic Empowerment of Moroccan Women, read at https://www.policycenter.ma/sites/default/files/PB_08-21_Rahmouni%20EN.pdf

[16]  See WEF, 2020, The Future of Jobs. https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2020.pdf

 

MIPA Institute

MIPA is a non-profit independent research institution based in Rabat, Morocco. Founded by a group of transdisciplinary researchers, MIPA’s mission is to produce systematic and in-depth analysis of relevant policy issues that lead to new and innovative ideas for solving some of the most pressing issues relating to democracy.


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Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis

MIPA is a non-profit independent research institution based in Rabat, Morocco. Founded by a group of transdisciplinary researchers, MIPA’s mission is to produce systematic and in-depth analysis of relevant policy issues that lead to new and innovative ideas for solving some of the most pressing issues relating to democracy.



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