ResearchSituation AssessmentThe Resurrection of the “Diplômés Chômeurs” Protests in Morocco

Since the abolition of direct employment in the public sector in 2012, the protests of Morocco’s diplômés chômeurs faded, but the cycle of protests started to rise once again
Nadia El Baoune Nadia El Baoune16/06/202469941 min


Since the abolition of direct employment in the public sector in 2012, the protests of Morocco’s diplômés chômeurs faded, but the cycle of protests started to rise once again.


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In the year 2006, the Moroccan government abolished direct employment in the public sector. This new policy was backed by a bill that was ratified on 18 February 2011, which stipulates that all candidates looking to be recruited in the public sector must pass the public employment entry test[1]. The Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 have, however, pushed the State to revoke its new policy and issue an “exceptional decree” in April 2011, which allows holders of higher degrees (Masters and Doctorates) direct integration into public sector jobs until 31 December, 2011. In addition, the government signed a memorandum with groups of the diplômés chômeurs (jobless graduates) on 20 July, 2011, that allowed a direct integration into public jobs as well. As result, 4304 diplômés chômeurs were directly recruited in public administration positions.

The direct recruitment in public sector jobs was again banned in early 2012 as the Justice and Development party (PJD) took leadership of the new government. On May 14th , 2012, former Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane[2] pointed out that the only way to get a job in the public sector is through competitive recruitment entry test and not by street protests, as this does not guarantee fairness, in his opinion. Benkirane has based his argument on the constitution, citing article 6, which guarantees equal opportunities and equality of citizens, article 31 which guarantees equal chances in matters of seeking work and asserts that access to public administration must be merit-based. Finally, article 22 from the new labor code which considers the competitive recruitment test as a must for obtaining a job in the public sector. Benkirane, therefore, recognizes that the “exceptional decree” has been made under the old law that allowed direct recruitment[3].

The new official positionwas disappointing to the diplômés chômeurs groups, especially those who signed the agreement with the government on 20 July, 2011, who then took to the streets  and formed a special committee to air their grievances. These groups have also boycotted the recruitment exams and continued defending the output of the agreement they signed with the government considering it a “right” for direct recruitment. Whereas other groups who were not part of the agreement, or those created after expiration of the ministerial decree (in December 31, 2011), demanded repealing of laws that abolish direct recruitment[4].


Regression of the Jobless Graduates Protests

The Moroccan diplômés chômeurs movement position regarding the “right” for direct employment rests on previous official decisions taken between 1999 and 2011 outside the legal framework of the law that governs the recruitment into the public sector, and which requires to pass an exam in order to get a job in the public administration[5]. These practices were used by the State as a strategy to absorb the anger of the jobless graduates who were protesting daily in front of the Moroccan parliament, which was a source of constant concern to the authorities. Yet, the abolition of direct employment did not change any of those representations among the diplômés chômeurs movement, whereas the state considers its new policy as compatible with chapter 22 of the new constitution[6].

Chapter 22 of the constitution was interpreted in a way that made the recruitment exam as the only legitimate way of getting a job in the public sector. Whereas for the exception situation set out by the legislator is presented in the third paragraph under which the authorities of national defense are authorized by the government to recruit new candidates after having passed their test and thus merited a job. To justify their demands, the unemployed graduates’ movement say that direct employment has never been done under the law, but was gained thanks to the protests in the street[7]. They also build their position on the exceptional ministerial decree issued in 2011, and argue that they obtained their diplomas before this decree was issued[8]. They, therefore, demand to benefit from direct recruitment in an equal manner with previous groups.

The lasting dispute between the two parties has led the jobless graduates’ movement to file a lawsuit at the Rabat Administrative Court in 2013 against the head of the government. At first instance, the primary court has favored the verdict of the jobless graduates’ movement[9], which was later reversed when the Moroccan government appealed the judjement at the court of appeals[10]. As a result, the jobless graduates’ activity was weakened only to reappear again in 2016 through a new movement called “Unemployed Graduates of the 20 July Agreement”, after the government reached an agreement with the teacher trainees which would enable them to be hired at once per the old rules, leading to the disappearance of the unemployed graduates after having gotten no reaction vis-a-vis their demands[11].

Graph 1: Overall number of unemployed graduates enrolling in direct recruitment lists and number of protesters among them in the street

Source: Researcher’s own compilation[12]

This graph indicates a constant regression in the overall number of unemployed graduates enrolling in the lists of direct recruitment and number of protesters among them beginning from 2012, which is the year that witnessed the abolition of direct recruitment leading to the disappearance of unemployed graduates from the streets in 2018. Prior to 2011, their number was reaching 3000 people where about 1500 keep protesting in streets. In 2011, 8000 people were enrolled in direct recruitment lists with about 3000 protesting continually. This number has decreased beginning 2012 to reach 4604 in 2013 with only 800 of them protesting in the streets. In 2018, the number of enrollees from the unemployed graduates became only 287 people with around 80 of them protesting in the streets; by 2019, their movement has completely disappeared from the streets.  This has demonstrated how efficient was the approach of abolishing direct recruitment in emptying the streets from protesters.


Psychological and Physical Fatigue

Several reasons can help understand the declining of the overall number of unemployed graduates since 2013. One reason is related to the former Prime Minister’s statement regarding the decision that direct recruitment is abolished, in addition to the withdrawal of the group of unemployed graduates after that their leaders have taken the decision to boycott the recruitment exams[13]. Furthermore, the Moroccan authorities have ignored the demands of the unemployed graduates, even if they have reacted to them before by suppression, the fact that made the unemployed sense that the state was reacting to their manifestations. The movement has, however, declined in number and no longer has the ability to escalate its manifestations due to authorities’ apathy towards their demands, which can be seen in what the jobless graduates’ movement called “a lack of serious dialogue in managing their demands”[14]. It should also be taken into consideration that the president of the Rabat region has held dialogue with the movement in 2018 and suggested self-employment via the National Agency for the Promotion of Employment and Competencies, but the unemployed graduates’ movement has refused the interference of this agency and considered such dialogue to be fruitless and no more than a tool for only listening and calming down the protestors[15].

Above all of that, the psychological and physical fatigue remains the core factor beind the decline of the movement. During the year 2019, the unemployed graduates’ movement has disappeared from the streets because of psychological and physical fatigue they have undergone (burnout) as they spent a very long period in protesting but in vain. Protesting in the street needs funds such as transportation and lodging in Rabat, and most of the unemployed graduates belong to low-income families, along with the declining media coverage of their protests and the absence of public support for their demands[16].


An appropriate context for exacerbating the crisis of the unemployed graduates

The unemployed graduates believe it to be their right to be recruited, and this is due to the fact that their category is the most vulnerable to unemployment compared to other social groups. According to statistics of the High Commissioner of Planning, unemployed graduates are more likely to be unemployed than those who have not finished their studies yet. In 2018, the national unemployment rate has moved from 10.2% to 9.8%, but it remains high among holders of high degrees especially university graduates where the unemployment rate reaches one-third[17]. In his speech on 13 October 2017, the king stated that the progress happening in Morocco does not cover all citizens especially the youths who happen to represent more than two thirds of the population[18].

Graph 2: Unemployment rate per level of training in 2018

Source: Researcher own compilation based on statistics of the High Commissioner of Planning

The demand for employment is topping off the list of social movements’ demands in Morocco[19], whereas public sector jobs still cannot absorb the growing numbers of unemployed graduates, which experienced apparent decline in 2016 only to increase again in 2019. As in 2016, 25998 financial positions were created, and another 23768 positions in 2017 just to dip down again in 2018 to an anemic 19315 jobs created. In 2019, it is expected that 25208 positions will be created as projected in the coming general budget.

Graph 3: Evolution of financial positions in general budget (2016-2019)

Source: Research own compilation building on financial laws (2016-2019)

The downturn of financial positions fits within the administration reform policy, which is moving towards more rationalization of expenditures. This new trend began in 2015 when the decree regarding separation of training from recruitment in the case of teacher graduates from training centers was issued. As such, a new decision was made regarding employment by contract in early 2016.  Additionally, another decision was made regarding recruitment of university professors. The new policy stipulates that employed holders of doctorates transfer their actual positions occupied in their original administration into the university; this is seen as a formula that does not require the creation of new financial positions in the recruitment of public university professors[20].

The actual economic status does not show any possibility of  creating new financial positions , which is due to a decline in investment, a predicted increase in financial needs to finance public investments, and a high indebtedness. This has forced the government to austerity measures in order to cope up with growth needs without any control of any external finance source[21].

This disruptive environment could fuel the protest of unemployed graduates at any time, especially that their protests are not organized by the law of public assemblies, but by the so-called “acquired right” in occupying the public sphere that emerged in the nineties. Chapter 11 of this law does not allow protesting except for legal organizations, and only under the condition of requesting a permit to protest from the authorities[22] prior to demonstration, which is a lacking condition in the case of the unemployed graduates groups. Moreover, there is a lack of applying norms of equality, competence and merit in recruitment.

In 2015, the high commissioner for planning stated that more than a quarter of the Kingdom’s employment is subject to nepotism, patronage and influence of powerful families[23]. The same official stated in 2019 that 70% of the unemployed graduates are using their network of relatives and friends in order to get a job[24]. The state has also long ago used to respond to the demands of the protest movements that put pressure on the streets, the fact that gives the impression to the unemployed graduates that pressure in the street is the only way to achieve their demands. This fact emerged mostly in 2016 when the Moroccan government signed an agreement with teacher trainees which dictates the recruitment of thousands of teachers at once, regardless of the existence of two decrees one of which requires sitting for a recruitment exam[25]. At the same time, the government refused to recognize the agreement made with the unemployed graduates which fueled the unemployed graduates’ street protests in 2016, aiming at a resolution of their case in a similar way to teacher trainees[26]. Moreover, and after having resolved the teacher trainees file, a group of unemployed graduates have begun mobilizing through Facebook and calling for manifestations in the streets on 20 March 2019 together with the so-called “the Coordination of the 20 July Agreement”[27].

The apathy of the authorities in responding to the demands of the employed graduates induced a feeling of defiance among them. The movement’s activists have started to plan in a way to profit from the protests of the contractual teachers in order to mobilize themselves to return to the streets[28]. Some activists of the unemployed graduates’ movement consider themselves currently in a holiday before returning to protest in the streets. In the meantime, they are waiting for the news of the contractual teachers and may use it as an opportunity to start a new wave of protest, especially that they believe in their right of employment[29].



It is likely that the protests of the unemployed graduates will soon return back to the streets, and may be in huge numbers especially in case other protest movements also returned, though the unemployed graduates will stick to non-political mobilization. In the long term, and if the decline in providing employment positions in public sector persists, especially that private sector is unable to create new positions, it will highly help in perpetuating the period of unemployment before being integrated, and will also increase the numbers of unemployed graduates. Within this context, and in the light of a probable shift of the protest demands in Morocco from a social to a political dimension[30], it is expected that the unemployed graduates will affect the social peace, considering that the state has adopted the strategy of “employment versus non-politicization” in its management of the movement in the past. On its turn, the unemployed graduates’ movement has used the politicization strategy in order to bring the state back to the table of negotiation and dialogue.

The return to compulsory military service could be a temporary preventive measure regarding the crisis of youth employment[31]. These measures seem to be limited in efficiency and don’t do much in  stopping the return of the unemployed graduates to street protests so long as ignoring the root causes of youth unemployment which is related to the model of political economy based on rentier model instead of competitiveness.



[1] Published in the official Bulletin of 19 May 2011.

[2] In response to an oral question addressed to Prime Minister Mr Abdelilah Benkirane regarding the general policy of government in activating employment and in decreasing unemployment, during the first monthly parliament session of oral questions related to the general policy, and his reply to the partisan majority teams on 14 May 2012.

[3] Decree No. 2- 11-100, issued on 4 Jumada Al-Awala 1432 (8 April 2011), sets out on an exceptional and transitional basis for the employment methods in some positions and grades. Official Bulletin No. 5933, issued on 7 Jumada I 1432, April 11, 2011.

[4] Participant observation and direct observation conducted in 2012, and building on data of some groups.

[5] As stated in the core text: “Recruitment is done in each of the positions either through exams conducted by tests or by virtue of certificates, or by the eligibility test or by taking an exercise to justify proficiency, taking into account the temporary requirements prescribed in the actual legislation”.

[6] As stated in the original, additional and reactionary memoranda submitted by the judicial agent and deposited with the registry of First Instance Court on 5-3-2013 and 3-4-2013. In which the case is requested not to accept a suit of an unemployed graduate from the group called “Unemployed Graduates of 20 July 2011, to settle their individual financial status by incorporating them into the public jobs in accordance with the Government’s commitment to directly employ the members of “Unemployed Graduates of July 20, 2011”. See: No: 05/5/2012. Ruling number 1888, file number 567/5/2012.

[7] A Dialogue with representatives of the unemployed graduates, March 14, 2018, at the Post square in Rabat.

[8] A dialogue with Nadia Al-Mayssar, March 5, 2019.

[9] The Original Sentence that is preserved at the registry of the Administrative Court of Rabat, Department of Elimination Court: Judgment on Thursday, 12 Rajab 1434, corresponding to 23/5/2012, file number: 05/5/2012. Ruling number 1888, file number 567/5/2012

[10] Kingdom of Morocco, Ministry of Justice, Rabat Administrative Court of Appeal, Decision No. 3610 of 01/08/2014.

[11] Dialogue with a member of the unemployed graduates’ coordination, on 14 March 2018.

[12]In the years 2009, 2010 and 2011, we relied on official data (Attaché of the former Prime Minister and the National Authority to support the demands of the unemployed graduates), and in the years 2012, 2013, 2018 and 2019, we relied on the movements’ moderators.

[13] Interviews with the movement’s leaders in 2013.

[14] Interview with Nadia Al-Mayser, former Coordinator of the National Coordination of the unemployed graduates, on 5 March 2019.

[15] Ibid

[16] Interview with Nadia Al-Mayser, a former Coordinator of the National Coordination of the unemployed graduates, on 1 March 2019

[17] High Commissioner for Planning, memorandum on the characteristics of the unemployed active population in 2018, website of the High Commissioner for Planning by Wednesday 27 February 2019.

[18] The Royal Speech at the Opening of the First Session of the Legislative Year 2017-2018, Rabat, 13 October 2017. See

[19] Abderahman Rachiq. Al-haraqat Al-Ihtijajya Fi Almaghreb Mina Al-tamarodi Ila Al-Ihtijaj [Protest Movements in the Maghreb: from Rebellion to Protest]. Casablanca: Muntada Badail Almaghreb Editions, 2014, p48.

[20] See a written answer by Khalid Samadi, the State Secretary to the Minister of National Education, Vocational Training and Higher Education and Scientific Research, in charge of higher education and scientific research to a written question of Omar Balafrej, member of the United Socialist Party, about limiting the recruitment of assistant professors only to employees’ category. The House of Representatives, written question No. 315 dated 27/4/2017. Kingdom of Morocco, Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research, State of Higher Education and Scientific Research, August 4, 2017.

[21] Statement of Mohammed Al-Halimi, the High Commissioner for Planning, while attending the press conference on the economic situation of 2018 and its expectations for the year 2019, January 16, 2019. The web site of the High Commissioner for Planning, Monday 28 January 2019.

[22] Law No. 76.00 of 23 July 2002, issued in Official journal No. 5046 dated October 10, 2002, p. 2890.

[23] Al-Halimi: More than a quarter of the jobs are subject to nepotism and influential families, on January 24, 2015.

[24] Lahlimi: “Bak Sahabi” (referring nepotism) controls the labor market in Morocco, in Al Massae newspaper, number 3826, Friday, March 1, 2019

[25] Decree No. 588. 15 Issued on 24 Shawwal 1436 (10 August 2015) by changing Decree No. 854. 02. 2 of the 8th Dhu al-Hijjah 1423 (10 February 2003) concerning the statute of employees of the Ministry of National Education. O.J. No. 6402, 24 January 1436 (October 8, 2015), p. 8344.

[26] Via tracing the unemployed graduates group of “20 July Agreement” on Facebook: “Unemployed Graduates Coordination of the “20 July 2011 Agreement”

[27] Declaration of protest rendezvous, Coordination of Unemployed Graduates of 20 July 2011 Agreement, Rabat on 15 March 2019.

[28] Interview with Nadia Al-Miser, 1 March 2019.

[29]Interview with Nadia El Maysar, March 5, 2019.

[30] See Abdelilah Essatte, Protests of Morocco’s Margins: The Credibility Gap, Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis, 2 August 2018.

[31] In an article debating reasons why military service is back, Ismail Hammoudi concludes: “it is unlikely that this project will succeed in the long term in absorbing the anger of the unemployed and marginalized youth. This is because the young people who enter the labor market annually are about hundreds of thousands, which required finding out efficient solutions to the dilemma of integrating youth”. See Smail Hamoudi, Morocco’s Return to Compulsory Military Service: Reasons and Challenges, Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis, 11 February 2019.


Nadia El Baoune

Nadia El Baoune

Researcher in social movements in Morocco specialized in social protest. She completed many pieces of research about the unemployed movement holders of high degrees. She earned her Ph.D. from the university of Mohamed V, faculty of juridical, economic and social sciences Agdal in Rabat-Morocco.

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