By Karima Rhanem
Morocco World News
Rabat, May 21, 2012
In his monthly address before the parliament, Morocco’s head of the Government Abdelilah Benkirane reiterated on Monday May 14 that “his government would not accept direct recruitment of unemployed graduates, because it is unconstitutional and is against the principle of equal opportunity.”
Abdelilah Benkirane stated that “the livelihood of the unemployed is in the hands of God and not in the Government’s”. He also advised the unemployed graduates to turn to commerce in reference to a religious hadith, which states that “you make 9 times wealth through commerce”.
His statement – which was viewed by many observers as having more religious connotation than a government vision to solve the unemployment crisis – sparked several reactions from Morocco’s youth and more specifically from the unemployed graduates.
Abderrahim El Hani, a social activist from Salé (a nearby city of Morocco’s capital, Rabat) questioned the head of the government’s statement wondering “why we have democratically elected the government if people’s social and economic conditions are within the hands of God.” “Instead, I expect the government to show more responsibility towards handling this complicated issue. We are fully aware that the public sector could not handle this great number of unemployed graduates. Yet, the government should be accountable for finding a solution to this long lasting problem,” he added.
From their part, different groups of unemployed graduates staged a protest in front of the parliament forming a symbolic souk (market) selling clothes and vegetables and holding banners stating that “God has responded to Benkirane’s prayers, and the graduates have become a door-to-door or itinerant salespeople (see videohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=2ikIybiRO98 )
In a phone conversation with Morocco World News, Anouar Ouizgane , member of the field coordination network of the unemployed graduates, which includes 3 groups, expressed his astonishment of the statement of the head of government, who according to him, puts the unemployment crisis in the hands of God. “We all believe in God’s will and destiny, but it’s the government responsibility to find solutions to the unemployment crisis; it is accountable for the livelihood of people”.
Ouizgane, who estimated the existence of at least 4000 young unemployed in the different groups created in 2011, said that “they are totally against being employed under the conditions of an official exam, and that the current government – in the framework of the continuity of actions – needs to commit to the provisions outlined in the July agreement signed by the previous government, allowing public administration to directly employ the graduates in the public sector.”
Yassir Mezouari, and Ibtissam Mzibri, Moroccan civil society activists both agreed that “the current government should respect the commitments made by its predecessors on the employment of young graduates.” Mezouari emphasized on “the needs of new measures to encourage entrepreneurship among youth” and Ibtissam said that “the government with or without public-private partnerships is responsible for finding a solution to this problem”.
However, Said Akdad, a Moroccan young researcher on political sciences who expressed his opposition to direct employment, emphasized that “employment should be based on merit and not on protest. Yet the government should ensure transparency and equality in the process of employment conditions.”
He added that “the current government found itself in the middle of a complicated crisis as a result of the handling of the issue of unemployed graduates by the previous governments, which was more limited to calming the public outcry than finding real and tangible solutions to the problem.”
When asked about Merit-based employment, member of the field coordination of the unemployed graduates Anouar Ouizgane couldn’t agree more. He said “we are not against merit, but the government needs first to set the conditions for that, which is transparency in setting for those exams and fighting ghost employees; this complicated issue needs a real political will and a real courage and commitment in handling this problem,” stressed Ouizgane.
Recently several Moroccan newspapers revealed the existence of at least 20,000 ghost employees in the public administration according to the statement of some officials from the current government. Yet the authenticity of these figures has not yet been confirmed by the government spokesperson. The campaign against ghost workers is expected to save the millions of dollars the country needs to curb genuine unemployment.
Since January 2012, hundreds of unemployed graduates took to the streets demanding jobs. Around 160 members of unemployed graduate groups have occupied an administrative building of the Ministry of Higher Education for two weeks in Rabat as part of their protest. Five members set themselves on fire.
Certainly, this was not the first time unemployed graduates attempted to commit a suicide to put pressure on the government to solve the issue of unemployment. In Dec 15, 2005, twenty members of the National Independent Group of Unemployed aged between 25 and 41 also attempted a collective self-burning while protesting in front of the Ministry of Health in Rabat. And in May 2006, ten other dissatisfied jobless attempted a collective suicide in Morocco’s capital by swallowing poison and setting themselves alight.
The situation is alarming, while the official unemployment rate is only 9.1 percent nationally- according to official figure- it rises to around 16 percent for graduates. A new report from the World Bank recently released on May 14, 2012, finds that almost half of all Moroccan youth between the ages of 15 and 29 are neither working, nor in school. It also stated that current youth unemployment programs suffer from similar disparities, with the majority of these programs directed at graduates with tertiary degrees. But these graduates represent just 5 percent of total youth unemployment in Morocco, leaving the remaining unemployed young people, who have lower education levels, with limited services.
The government said it has come up with a number of measures worth 1 billion dirham to promote youth employment, and increase employment governance. The latter is also pinning hopes on self-employment, by encouraging entrepreneurship, simplifying administrative procedures and improving access to finance. The government also pledged to create the national observatory for employment to allow public authorities and actors and stakeholders in the field of employment access necessary information to guide and influence employment public policies. Yet, there is no clarity on how the government is planning to solve the issue of the unemployed graduates who announced to stage more sit-ins until the government commit to the July 20 agreement.
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