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French Version

Moroccan graduates demand state jobs, snub private sector

Hundreds of university graduates have held weekly protests for the past 15 years on the streets of the Moroccan capital, demanding safe government jobs because they fear the demands of private business. Mostly holders of degrees in the humanities and social sciences, some of the demonstrators say they would rather die than work for a private firm.

So they demand to be put on the public payroll even though the government has little use for them.

"In the private sector there is no security. You could work for years and one day or the next they will show you the door," said Driss al-Hassnaoui, a member of a 7,000-strong organization of unemployed graduates.

Hassnaoui believes the government is obligated to give him a job.

"We are ready to be integrated in any public position," he said, as protestors waved a banner reading "work or death."

Last month a young woman ate rat poison during one of the demonstrations but did not die. In another incident several other demonstrators suffered severe burns when their Molotov cocktails accidentally exploded on them.

Morocco's official unemployment rate is 10.9 percent. Some 13 percent of the workforce is employed in the public sector, or about 700,000 people. This year some 12,000 people are expected to get government jobs.

"Recruitment in Morocco is not equitable," said Mohammad al-Boukili of the Moroccan Human Rights Association.

"Those who are part of a certain social class or family are favored although the unemployed graduates, who often come from poor backgrounds, are the most in need of work," he said.

But the protesters have little sympathy from the government, which says it simply does not need more public servants with humanities degrees.

Driss Guerraoui, an adviser to the premier, said the graduates could not afford to turn their backs on the private sector.

"They demand jobs in the public sector but they don't have the qualifications for those positions where we need workers," explained the adviser, who is supposed to be dealing with the problem.

"We're looking for economists, telecommunications engineers, people with expertise in languages. We've suggested in vain that they get retrained.

"These unemployed graduates have made a profession of demonstrating," he said, adding that they needed to change their mentality "especially toward the private sector."

Hassnaoui said he was prepared to keep protesting for many more years. "We will continue our sit-in, even if it gets us nowhere for years to come," he said.

Casablanca,01 16 2006
The Daily Star
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