Tempted by the Moroccan Dream
Marianne Roux-Bouzidi - 12/07/2012
"Morocco, land of contrasts". The famous tourism slogan also applies to the kingdom’s labour market. The country ranks third place in the world with regards to brain drain (1). The World Bank is quite concerned by Moroccan youth unemployment that has reached record levels (2). Yet every year, the country attracts many French people who come to try their luck.
At the end of 2011, there were 44,430 French citizens listed in consular registers, i.e., an increase of 6% as the Moroccan section of the ADFE (Democratic Association of French Citizens Abroad) indicates in its news magazine published in March 2012. The association estimates that about half of those registered are French-Moroccan. However, these figures are not truly representative of the size of the French community in Morocco as the census at the consulate is not compulsory. In order to get a closer approximation of reality, NGOs ensure that the number should be multiplied by two. Unsurprisingly, the majority of expatriates are settled in the Casablanca-Rabat axis.
Who are these dual citizens who came to try their luck in the country of their parents? Many of them are young single graduates aged under 35 who flee the gloom of the economic crisis in Europe. One should admit that a recent report (3) of the High Council for Integration confirms the reasons behind their choice. The report tells us that while having French nationality, children of non-European immigrants are twice as likely to be unemployed than the French-born of French parents; immigrants themselves benefit from a better access to jobs. These post-secondary graduate young people no longer accept unskilled and underpaid jobs their parents used to do. Aware of the existent discrimination related to their origin, in their job search, the return to their “country” may appear as the solution.
Jaoued, 28, has all the attributes of a young dynamic executive worker. From his office on the 13th floor of a building situated in Casablanca’s business district, the view is spectacular. Yet his eye is not lost in the landscape but rather juggles between his mobile phone and touch pad. Both a Sciences Po Aix and IAE Management School graduate, this French-Moroccan has been living in Morocco for four years. At the end of his studies he was offered jobs in Tunis, Dubai and Casablanca. “I chose the Moroccan job offer because it was the most interesting both in terms of responsibility and salary,” he explains. After two years as chief financial and administrative officer, he decided to start his own audit and consulting business that now has ten employees. He describes the choice of his settlement in Morocco as purely economic, “I believe the future is here, we feel that we can bring innovation. With seriousness and patience anything is possible. The region has a real economic strength and I feel I can contribute to this growth, which was not the case in France due to the glass ceiling of which young people are victims.”
It’s the same story for the thirty-year-old vivacious Najlae coming from Provence. After obtaining her Masters degree in corporate communication and political journalism abroad, this young woman on the move wanted to pursue her career abroad after the positive experiences she had had in England and Egypt in the framework of her studies. She chose the White City, quite haphazardly “I looked everywhere and got an offer for a position as a journalist in one of the best Moroccan newspapers. For me, Casablanca was just as attractive as London.” After two years, she decided to resign in order to create her own company in communications and production consulting. For her, Morocco is going through its decades of prosperity and job opportunities have to be seized when one is ambitious: "I have the fever of entrepreneurship. I only came here for my career and I made the right choice. As an aspiring journalist, I had the luck to begin my experience working with one of the most renowned press groups. This opportunity made me go up the ladder much faster. Had I stayed in France, the professional level I reached in five years working in Morocco would have taken perhaps twenty years.”
Working as a foreman, the thirty-three-year-old Ahmed, has been living in Morocco for the past three years. Married to a French-Moroccan like him and father of two infants, he wanted to try their luck on the other side of the Mediterranean for a better quality of life with lots of sunshine and less stress. After having searched for a year, he managed to land a contract with a multinational company, the sine qua non condition to make the big step, “I did not want to come here and do an odd job after another. For me the security of a steady job and a decent salary to live properly were essential.” Although he does not really speak the Moroccan dialect as he is rather speaks Berber, Ahmed feels fully integrated. Living in an apartment lent by his wife's family in a working-class neighbourhood, he never felt any hostility towards him and his future plans in Morocco.
However, this is not the case for Najlae and Jaoued who have to socialize with the bourgeoisie. For them, integration is not an easy task because they are not part of the innermost circles and people do not feel shy to make them understand this. At best, they have the right to be patronised, at worst they are called “zmigris” (immigrants) who steal the jobs that Moroccans should have. They are also called “banlieusards” (suburban dwellers) or sons of “aaroubi” (countrymen). “I am a UFO for them: I come from a humble immigrant family, I have studied in great schools and succeeded professionally. I do not fit into their mental pattern that tolerates the reproduction of elites coming from big families,” confides Jaoued. It is difficult to envisage a social life in such a context: “I give all to my work and priority to my career indeed. When I need to recharge my batteries I go to France.”
Najlae is quite emphatic: “Of course I am full-filled professionally but socially, I pay the price every day. As a woman I lost a lot in quality of life, I can even say that Morocco has killed my femininity.” For the young woman, it is out of the question to consider family life here: “I will stay at Casablanca as I am single but the day I have children, I refuse to see them grow up in such an unequal society. It would be a regression. I embody the result of meritocracy thanks to the Republican public school and I am aware that I cannot convey my values in this environment where civic responsibility does not exist. Remaining here would be a way of denying myself.”
Jaoued, Ahmed and Najlae converge on one point. Their professional development has been accompanied by adjustment difficulties caused by a lack of: rigor, a regulatory framework, a flexible sense of time, a management that has to deal with the emotional susceptibilities and the preeminence of family networks ... “Whether in small businesses or in large ones, even at the highest level, I was shocked by the lack of organization and professionalism” acknowledges Ahmed. If all three young people thought they knew Morocco, the clash with reality is sometimes brutal “I realized that I live in a foreign country where I do not have the codes. I must make efforts to integrate just as any other French citizen” admits Jaoued.
If Morocco succeeds its challenge of growth and attracting new skills, it is not necessarily an Eldorado. In order to keep these young talented people, many of which are dual citizens, the kingdom will have to deal with other issues such as individual freedoms and access to citizenship. These French-Moroccan youngsters expect a real quality of life, not just a material one in order to envisage a long-term future in the country of their elders.
Note n°1: According to Maâzouz Abdellatif, Deputy Minister of MREs (Moroccans residing abroad), 18.5% of national graduates live abroad. He was alarmed at the extent of the phenomenon in May 2012. The brain drain especially concerns computer scientists, engineers, scientists or doctors.
Note n°2: According to a report entitled “Promoting opportunities and participation of young people in Morocco” published in May 2012, 30% of 15-29-year-olds are unemployed. Morocco has 11 million people aged from 15 to 35 of a total population of 32 million people.
Note n°3: The notice entitled “Integrating an underemployment economy” is available online on the website HCI: http://www.hci.gouv.fr/Avis-Integrer-dans-une-economie-de.html
Translated from French by Elizabeth Grech