One-third of university graduates unemployed, study reveals

About 33% of higher education graduates in Morocco are unemployed – 20.9% of them women, and 12.3% men, according to the first study to trace the trajectory of graduates for 45 months after graduation.

The results of the study titled ‘Professional integration of graduates from higher education’ were made public during a remote workshop on 27 October 2021.

The study was prepared by the National Evaluation Body of the Higher Council for Education, Training and Scientific Research.

More than two-thirds (69.4%) of higher education graduates are employed whereas 13.3% are actively looking for a job, 9.4% are pursuing further academic studies and 7.9% are inactive in any educational or training programme.

The study found that 82.1% of male graduates obtained their first jobs within the observation period following their graduation in 2014, compared to 66.7% of women, highlighting a gap of 15.4% between the genders.

Number of jobs, graduates do not line up

Dr Abdellah Benahnia, a part-time international researcher and professor at the Superior Institutions of Science and Technology, British Education Institute in Casablanca, told University World News: “The high percentage of unemployed graduates will have a negative socio-economic impact, bearing in mind that the majority come from poor or middle-class backgrounds. Those coming from rich families will either secure a job or get involved in the family businesses.”

He said that one of the many reasons why those graduates cannot easily find a job could be attributed to the “mismatch of jobs being created by the government and the number of graduates each year”.

A November 2019 national survey of businesses carried out by the High Commission for Planning in Morocco found that more than half the companies in the industrial sector believe that the country’s universities do not produce enough qualified candidates for their vacant positions.

Dr Abdennasser Naji, a former adviser to the minister of higher education and president of Amaquen Institute, an education think tank, said: “While employers don’t provide enough jobs to the graduates because the national economy does not achieve a sufficient growth rate to absorb the maximum number of graduates, the study programmes are not adequate to address the needs of employers.”

Jean AbiNader, a senior adviser at the Moroccan American Centre, said the discrepancy between education and jobs and the expectations of graduates about what would prepare them for the market are some of the problems facing Morocco’s higher education system.

There is also a need to reorient students away from university degrees and towards vocational or technical training, including an emphasis on programming, high-tech, and knowledge economy skills for which associate degrees are good preparation, he said.

Poor education quality blamed

“The poor state of the Moroccan public education system does not adequately prepare high school graduates for employment or higher education,” AbiNader pointed out. “The education system gives them the wrong messages because many faculties are ill-prepared to guide students.”

According to Naji, “The graduate unemployment problem could be solved by improving the quality of universities’ outcomes through responding to the needs of economic growth and through implementing study programmes able to develop 21st-century skills, especially critical thinking skills.”

Benahnia said a solution is to encourage distance working, which will “definitely be suitable for many women looking for a chance to create their own family and rely on a stable job”.

He suggested that adopting an approach of university education for (self-) employment would be very beneficial to all.

AbiNader said collaboration with the private sector should be strengthened in terms of education courses, job fairs and other gateways to employment. Efforts to expand the employment of women through improved and more accessible knowledge economy courses and technological support should also be increased, he said.

Quality control is a real issue and more rigorous licensing procedures are required, AbiNader added.

“Morocco is in a crisis mode in terms of university employment opportunities and should make the students more aware of the need for disciplines that will make them effective job-seekers,” he pointed out.

“University students also need soft skills to enable them to be leaders, innovators, team players, and articulate professionals.”