Morocco closed last year with unemployment figures slightly lower than those recorded at the beginning of 2022. The rate fell by half a point nationally in December to 11.8 per cent, according to data collected by the High Commission for Planning (HCP). That is 66,000 fewer unemployed. In rural areas, however, the level of unemployment rose by two percentage points to 5.2 per cent.
Around 1.5 million people are still unemployed out of a total labour force of 11.8 million. These figures are similar to those recorded in the country at the beginning of the century. The economic crisis triggered by COVID-19 and aggravated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine has hit the foundations of Morocco's precarious labour market, as it has in other neighbouring countries.
In 2021, the total unemployment rate exceeded 12% and that of higher graduates was close to 40%, according to data published on the HCP portal. This worrying trend seems to be correcting itself in recent months, although the Maghreb country maintains the three-point difference with its historical record of 8.9%, recorded in 2011 by the World Bank.
The slight drop in the unemployment rate, however, contrasts with the structural problems of the Moroccan labour market, which are related to the deep territorial gaps between the countryside and the city. While 150,000 jobs have been created in urban areas, rural areas have seen the loss of 174,000 jobs. The balance is negative, according to HCP data.
The service sector was able to flex its muscles after the gradual lifting of the severe restrictions imposed in the context of the pandemic. The HCP credits the sector with the creation of 164,000 jobs. Industry, meanwhile, produced another 28,000 jobs. On the other side of the coin is the primary sector, which lost 215,000 jobs, and the construction sector, which lost another 1,000 jobs.
The latest data have highlighted the widening gender gap. Specifically, the female unemployment rate rose by half a percentage point to 17.2 per cent. The male unemployment rate fell by 0.6 percentage points to 10.3 per cent, according to local media.
The Moroccan High Commission for Planning also collects data related to underemployment, the non-full-time employment that is paid below the minimum wage. In other words, jobs with fewer hours and lower qualifications that the worker has to develop in order to avoid becoming unemployed. Under this heading, the figures improve slightly with a decrease of three percentage points. But 972,000 Moroccans are still in this type of occupation.