By Siham Ali
By Siham Ali
Rabat, July 19, 2012
Regional co-operation is the key to solving the rampant problem of youth unemployment in the Maghreb, experts said at a recent forum.
Youth joblessness in the Maghreb has risen over the last few years due to internal and external political and financial crises. According to recent statistics from the African Development Bank, it is as high as 41% among Maghreb residents aged 15-24.
Participants reached the same conclusion at a two-day meeting of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which wrapped up in Rabat on July 11th. The seminar focused on ways to spur job creation for young people across the Maghreb.
The situation has now reached a point where the lack of decent jobs, especially for vulnerable groups such as youths and women, is becoming a permanent threat to the political stability and economic development of these countries, the ILO concluded.
The priority is not just to create jobs but also to generate decent jobs, as any other type of employment is unsustainable and will not help to bring social stability to economies, ILO representative Dorothea Schmidt said.
“Despite the efforts made by our countries to tackle unemployment, and that of young people in particular, jobless rates remain high,” Employment and Vocational Training Minister Abdelwahed Souhail said. “This may have an adverse impact on stability and social peace. That’s why we need to consider alternatives and new ways of supporting youth employment.”
He added that Maghreb countries are facing the challenge of creating more decent jobs and adapting to the new needs of the labour market. The emergence of new professions and the launch of strategic plans make skilled human resources essential to meet these needs, Souhail added.
The minister also called for devising an industrial strategy based on the development of new international professions.
Meanwhile, experts say the problem cannot be solved without regional co-operation, given the parallels between the countries of the Maghreb.
Sociologist Hanane Chergui called for drafting a Maghreb-wide strategy for dealing with young people’s problems in terms of employment and training as soon as possible. The current crisis forces the countries of the region join efforts to tackle this challenge, Chergui said.
One solution is to boost economic partnership, according to economist Moubdiaa Ouazzani. He argued that growth would increase substantially if economic and trade co-operation between Maghreb states was stepped up. This will make it possible to create new jobs and new professions, the analyst added.
The problem is compounded by the return of people living in Europe to their home countries, Ouazzani explained.
Hamid Cherradi and his wife Bouchra were among those who had to move back home after losing jobs abroad. They returned to Morocco six months ago after living in Italy for 12 years. They have stayed with relatives and have not yet found jobs in Morocco.
“We lost our jobs in Italy, like many other immigrants,” Bouchra told Magharebia. “Coming home was the only solution for us. But unfortunately, we’re having a hard time finding jobs here. With the small amount of money we have saved up, we’re going to try to start up a small business. We’re counting on getting a bank loan.”