Morocco: Remember Tunisia!

One of the numerous youth-led protest stories from the Middle East that has not been getting wide media coverage is that of Morocco where yesterday four unemployed youths self-immolated in front of the country’s parliament. For the strong the images of these young men are available on Storyful. The reason for this act? Once again the dire youth unemployment complex emergency which not only is sweeping the Arab Spring affected countries, but indeed the globe.

The self-immolations in Rabat yesterday cannot fail to evoke memories of Mohammed Bouazizi, the young Tunisian trader who set not only himself alight while protesting the lack opportunities he as a graduate faced; but the match he lit set Tunisia ablaze triggering mass unrest that spread to neighbouring countries emerging into what history books will call the Arab Spring.

Self-immolation is not just a pervasive protest action in the Middle East, but has been also used widely in other parts of the world to significant effect. The earliest were over the Vietnam war in the 1960s. More recently, Buddhist monks protesting China’s rule of Tibet as well as in Burma against the military junta. Though the results of these protests have not made any remarkable changes to the rule of these regimes, they have served to bring the mainstream media spotlight to these protest movements.

Unemployed graduates

According to Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) which works in poverty alleviation in Morocco, unemployment amongst graduates is 17% while for those without tertiary qualifications it is 4%.

Morocco’s major income earners are agriculture and tourism, both sectors that do not have wide demand for highly skilled knowledge based workers, leaving a significant number of university graduates without jobs. Other large employers are the construction, factories and call-centres who again do not require specific focussed graduate workers. The youths who have been taking part in the country’s protests since early January are members of an informal association of unemployed graduates who in the ‘occupy spirit’ had taken over the administrative building block of the Ministry of Higher Education. These young people, some with master’s degrees have been decrying the lack of jobs available in the public sector saying that the only work available tends to fit only those with high school and vocational training qualifications. Even government initiatives to provide public sector job opportunities such as giving golden handshake early retirement opportunities to older civil servants so that young people can replace them have only go so far.

The situation has also been exacerbated by an education system that mainly equips students for work in the public sector.

Though the Arab Spring has caused leaders to institute reforms, such as Morocco’s King Mohamed VI who pledged to cut the youth unemployment rate, persistent and growing youth unemployment will continue to contribute to the spread of unrest in the Middle East, where according to the IMF youth unemployment in the region is 25% which exceeds any other region in the world.

However, we also need to ask whether in an economic climate which cannot mop up the number of highly educated workers into the job market, whether university education and not vocational qualifications is really required? What use is a theoretically based worker in a country that needs practical hands-on workers with work-ready skills? It’s about time that governments placed more emphasis on equipping the youth with high-quality vocational qualifications.


About yipe
Yipe an acronym for the Youth Interactive Portal for Enterprise is an organization that assists entrepreneurs to start up and manage their small businesses.

One Response to Morocco: Remember Tunisia!

  1. asma says:

    Thanks MArroco , for supporting the tunisian revolution

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