Jan 30, 2020

Morocco’s Socio-Economic Challenges

Employment, Education, and Migration – Policy Briefs from the Region and Europe

Even though the Moroccan king’s readiness to introduce reforms in response to the mass protests in 2011 has prevented the kind of radical change occurring in many other countries in the MENA region and has maintained the country’s relative stability, Morocco’s social peace remains fragile. Social unrest has flared recurrently, most prominently in the Rif region, as socio-economic grievances persist. The country continues to suffer from significant regional disparities, a poor education system, and high unemployment, especially among the young.




Socio-economic deprivation and the perceived lack of opportunities have also been key drivers of radicalization and irregular migration, especially among Moroccan youth. Introducing comprehensive policies to address the country’s socio-economic problems is essential for the country’s development and stability. This is becoming even more urgent as Morocco is hosting a growing number of migrants and refugees.

It is in the EU’s interest to support the Moroccan government in these efforts, not least because it relies on Morocco to control migration flows from Sub-Saharan Africa and conflict zones in the MENA region to the EU. The following paper collection analyzes key aspects of Morocco’s migration, education, and employment challenges and provides recommendations for the Moroccan government as well as the international community, particularly the EU.

This edited volume brings together papers written by the participants of the workshop “Promotion of Think Tank Work on Migration and Socio-Economic Challenges in Morocco,” which is part of the DGAP’s pro­ject “Promotion of Think Tank Work and Related Institutions in the MENA Region and Europe.” The authors analyze various aspects of the socio-economic and migration-related challenges that Morocco faces and develop policy proposals both for the Moroccan government and the EU. Among the recommendations are the following: In order to ensure that the government’s current initiatives are more successful, a holistic approach to education reform is needed that addresses the different factors impacting the quality of education. This includes a higher quality of instruction by improving teacher trainings, attracting foreign teachers to fill current personnel gaps, and adjusting school curricula and vocational training to better match the skills required by the labor market.

A successful education reform could also provide a crucial part of the solution to Morocco’s other challenges. Improving the quality and inclusivity of the education system would not only increase young people’s chances in the labor market and provide the Moroccan state with a better skilled and more productive labor force but would also help reduce the risks of radicalization and irregular migration. To this end, greater cooperation and knowledge-transfer between the different stakeholders involved in the education sector is strongly recommended. Moroccan civil society in particular needs to be more closely involved in the field of education reform. The Moroccan government as well as the EU should also allow Morocco’s civil society to take part in a more targeted way in decision-making processes regarding migration policies. This would be an important step to address the needs and improve the human rights condition of migrants in Morocco.

In addition, as the EU remains an important partner for Morocco, the authors recommend that European countries evaluate and readjust their support to better address the current socio-economic needs and challenges. This includes improving coordination between the EU’s European Neighborhood Policy and its blending of financial instruments to ensure that it does not only address labor market challenges but tackles its structural problems. While education reform is first and foremost a national issue, European countries like Germany can provide some support through the transfer of expertise within the wider framework of educational cooperation pro­jects.

The Contributions in Short

“Formalizing the Informal Sector – Youth Employment in Morocco”: Saad Aldouri argues that the size and structure of Morocco’s large informal sector represents a key challenge to the country’s economic growth. In addition, the shortage of more secure jobs in the formal economy carries the risk of breeding social unrest. He emphasizes that the Moroccan government needs to provide viable alternatives to informal employment in order to effectively draw youth from the informal to the formal economy.

Money Can’t Buy Labor – Prospects for the Impact of Renewed EU Foreign Policy Instruments in Morocco”: Francesca Fabbri assesses EU policies to support labor market development in Morocco. She argues that the structural problems of Morocco’s labor market, such as its non-inclusivity, the large size of the informal sector, and corruption, require better coordination between the EU’s initiatives to blend financing instruments and its European Neighborhood Policy.

English and Personnel Exchanges – Education Policy Strategies for Economic Growth and Greater Moroccan Socio-Political Integration in ECOWAS”: Imru Al Qays Talha Jebril emphasizes the importance of improving English language instruction in Morocco. This would not only increase the employability and competitiveness of its young work force, but also facilitate the country’s regional integration, e.g. into the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union.

Reforming the Moroccan Education System Through Enhancing Coordination Between Civil Society Organizations and Public Authorities”: The paper by Rokaya El-Boudrari argues that civil society organizations play a key role in Morocco’s education sector. Yet their experiences and expertise are insufficiently taken into account by the government when designing and implementing reform initiatives. She emphasizes the importance of improved cooperation between the Moroccan government and civil society organizations in the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive education reform.

In-Service Teacher Training in Morocco”: In her paper, Khadija Ouadi focuses on the training of teachers as a key element to improving the quality of education in Morocco. She argues that the current education system suffers from the heterogeneity of training systems for teachers, restrictive recruitment mechanisms, and the lack of appropriate in-service training for teachers. The shortcomings of the training system negatively impact the quality of instruction.

Learning Through Serious Gaming – Improving Moroccan Higher Education”: The paper by Benedikt van den Woldenberg focuses on the introduction of new teaching methods to improve higher education in Morocco. He stresses that the current education system in Morocco relies heavily on teacher-centered teaching, which is not inducive to creating a learning environment that fosters creativity, problem-solving skills and a more contextualized understanding of a given issue.

The Role of Extracurricular Activities in Preventing Irregular Migration and Youth Radicalization”: The paper by Richard Grieco focusses on drivers of irregular migration and youth radicalization in Morocco. Both radicalization and migration are considered to have similar root causes stemming from a perceived lack of opportunities for personal and professional development. He draws on the experience of the Italian NGO Progettomondo.mlal, which has been working in Morocco since 2001 to develop policy recommendations.

Moroccan Migration Policy – Education as a Tool to Promote the Integration of Sub-Saharan Migrants”: Mohammed Ouhemmou discusses key challenges of the Moroccan education system that hinder the integration and socio-economic mobility of Sub-Saharan migrants into Moroccan society. He argues that while a policy reform in 2013 has improved their access to the Moroccan education system, language difficulties, the inability of teachers to cater to the specific needs of migrant students, the lack of pre-school programs, and racial discrimination continue to pose significant challenges.

Obstacles Facing Asylum Seekers in North-Eastern Morocco”: In his paper, Jaouad Benaicha focuses on two key obstacles that asylum seekers face in cities like Nador and Oujda in the North-East of Morocco: travel difficulties due to financial constraints, which hinders their ability to complete their official request for asylum with the UNHCR based in Rabat, and violations of their rights under UNHCR protection by local authorities.

Building Bridges – Moroccan Civil Society as a Mediator in EU Decision-Making on Migration”: Ilham Siba assesses the impact of EU migration policies and the mobility partnership signed between the EU and Morocco on migrants in Morocco, highlighting the critical human rights conditions many of them face in Morocco. She emphasizes that Moroccan civil society organizations play a key role in improving Moroccan migration policies and implementing initiatives to foster the integration of migrants into Moroccan society.


About the workshop

The following papers were written by participants of the workshop “Promotion of Think Tank Work on Migration and Socio-Economic Challenges in Morocco,” organized by the German Council on Foreign Relations’ Middle East and North Africa Program in the winter of 2017 and the spring of 2018 in cooperation with the Rabat Social Studies Institute (RSSI) and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung in Rabat. The workshop is part of the program’s project on the promotion of think tank work in the Middle East and North Africa, which aims to strengthen the scientific and technical capacities of civil society actors in the region and the EU who are engaged in research and policy analysis and advice. It is realized with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office and the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa e.V.).

The content of the papers does not reflect the opinion of the DGAP. Responsibility for the information and views expressed herein lies entirely with the authors. The editorial closing date was June 10, 2018.


Saad Aldouri, Jaouad Benaicha, Rokaya El Boudrari, Francesca Fabbri, Richard Grieco, Khadija Ouadi, Mohammed Ouhemmou, Ilham Siba, Imru Al Qays Talha Jebril, Benedikt van den Woldenberg

Edited by Dina Fakoussa and Laura Lale Kabis-Kechrid

Bibliographic data

Fakoussa-Behrens, Dina, and Laura Lale Kabis-Kechrid. “Morocco’s Socio-Economic Challenges .” January 2020.

DGAP Report No. 3, January 2020 – (first published in June 2018), 52 pp.