Social protection hampered by bad governance

Larbi Jaïdi
Espace Associatif

It is essential to overhaul decision-making and management mechanisms and re-launch public programmes to make them more efficient, and to create a synergy among the various components of the systems that provide services. There must be transparency to promote a climate of confidence among the different social actors, and to protect the people from economic and social risks.

Seethe original report in French.

At the start ofthe 21st century, Morocco is finding it difficult to achieve prosperity andsocial cohesion, partly because of backwardness in manyareas of social development. Apackage of reforms was implemented more than ten years ago and some notableprogress was made, including an obligatory illness insurance law and reform tothe Family Code, but major problems remain. Illiteracy is becoming morewidespread, progress is not uniform or harmonious, and there is still genderinequity and great differences in development levels in different regions. In2006, the UNDP Human Development Report ranked Morocco at 123rd in the world,which is very low. The reforms have still made hardly any visible impact onconditions of life in the country, and the greatest challenge facing theadministration is to improve the governance of these social programmes.

Morocco has entered into numerous international commitments,including the United Nations Millennium Declaration, which binds the country toadopting human rights and gender equity approaches in public policies. Thismeans the state must strengthen its capacity to ensure the promotion andprotection of human rights, taking account of people’s ability to have theirrights recognized, and also to establish mechanisms to follow up and evaluatepublic action to make sure that these rights are completely satisfied. Itis true that Morocco has taken some measures to improve the situation of women,including officially adopting the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms ofDiscrimination against Women (CEDAW), but theinstitutional dimension of the gender focus has not yet been consolidated.

Access to health: dysfunctions that jeopardize equity

Morocco has also made international commitments to provide national health careservices for the whole population. However, in many casespeople find they are hindered from actually accessing health care, and this isdue to various dysfunctional weaknesses in the health system, including thefollowing:

The fact that the generalstate of health of the people is still unsatisfactory. Thematernal mortality rate is high, as are mortality rates among newborn babies andchildren under five years old; contagious illnesses still persist (there are30,000 cases of tuberculosis per year) and so do maternal and perinatal healthproblems (27% of children born in rural areas and 13% in urban areas sufferstunted growth, and 12% of children in rural areas and 3.3% in cities areunderweight); and non-contagious illnesses due to changesin people’s ways of life have emerged (17.4% of the total of years oflife lost through premature death are due to circulatory system diseases, 6.7%to tumours and 4.6% to respiratory diseases). Thereis also the problem of HIV/AIDS, which is still on the rise, especially amongwomen, who account for 50% of cases in the last five years in contrast to the1986 to 1990 period when only 20% of HIV/AIDS cases were women (Ministry ofHealth, 2005a).

Inequalities in the offer ofand access to health care. In spite of the efforts that have beenmade, the health system still has numerous shortcomings including insufficientinfrastructure and equipment[1]and geographical access problems in some parts of the country: around 31% of thepopulation lives more than 10 kilometres from a health centre (Ministry ofHealth, 2005b).

Mechanisms to finance the health caresystem are underdeveloped, and only a totally inadequate 5% of thegeneral state budget is allocated to this sector. To make matters worse, amassive
70% of the total health budget consists ofoperating credits; there is a lack of coordination between resource allocationcriteria and areas of expenditure (the hospital network, outpatient services,training, etc.); thereis scant financing from public sources;[2]services are of poor quality with long waiting times, examinations that are onlysuperficial, illogical prescriptions, shortages of medicines and low healthinsurance coverage that provides protection for only 15% of the population (Ministryof Health, 2003).

The new Compulsory Health Insurance law (AMO) means awhole change of perspective for most people. It encompasses all public andprivate employees and is based on principles of solidarity and equity, coveragefor everyone, and no discrimination for reasons of age, sex, type of activity,level of income or medical background. However, the evolution of health care andthe rate of coverage are still subject to restrictions imposed by the financialequilibrium of the system.

The state, in cooperation with the banking system and micro-creditorganizations, has set a series of initiatives in motion to provide coverage forself-employed workers in the expectation that AMO coverage can be expanded toinclude these specific categories. A bill is being prepared to enableeconomically vulnerable population sectors that are without coverage to benefitfrom a health care system (RAMED). But this project has run into difficulties inthe implementation phase due to problems with identifying the beneficiaries,partial contributions from certain population groups, hospital reform and theparticipation of local communities in providing finance.

Limited retirement pension coverage

The retirement pension sector is made up of 10 different systems, and totalcoverage is still limited. In 2005, the four biggest retirement pension fundsprovided coverage for 25.6% of the economically active population (Ministryof Finance and Social Security, 2003). There is a generalized notion thatthese systems are generous, but in fact the average benefit per person is verymeagre, indeed it is less than the minimum salary in the country. The retirementpension system has problems that undermine its financial stability and have anegative impact on its efficiency and future viability. These can be brieflysummed up as follows:

• The retirement pensions sector is not organized in any legislativeframework.
• There is not enough control or supervision.
• Contributions are low (5%) compared to other countries (Portugal 35%, Brazil30%, Turkey 20%) and are increasingly insufficient to finance benefit payments.
• There is weak governance in the pension funds.
• The pension systems are not coherently coordinated (Ministry of Finance and Social Security, 2003).

The whole equilibrium of the system is at grave risk because the demographicbalance essential to pension provision is expected to deteriorate over the next30 years. Demographic projections cast doubt on the sustainability of thesystem, and people do not think it will be able to meet its commitments in theyears ahead. In the long term, it will only be possible to counter the negativeconsequences for this sector if Morocco can achieve a good and long-lasting rateof economic growth. The traditional forms of solidarity and mutual support amongpeople are disappearing, so the retirement pension system will have to beexpanded, and there will have to be a change of mentality so that old agepensions come to be seen as a human right.

The condition of poverty

In 1999, there were approximately 5.2 million people (19% of the population) livingbelow the poverty line. Rates were much higher in rural areas than in the cities
(27.4% and 12%, respectively). The poor tend to have large families (70%have more than five children), low levels of education, a lack of assets and, mostserious of all, they do not have land that can be cultivated. The unemployment rateis high in this population sector, reaching 30% in urban areas. An estimated 44%of children under 15 years old are living in poverty, while distribution by gendershows an increasing trend towards the feminization of poverty (Ministry of EconomicSecurity and Planning, 2000).

There are various vulnerable groups in society that require attention, above all:

• Children: It has been calculated that there are 600,000 child workers, manyof whom live on the street and are exposed to physical and sexual violence. Abouthalf a million children are beggars.
• Widowed, divorced and single mothers who are heads of households: Women inthese categories who are more prone to poverty, in part because Moroccan legalstatutes and inheritance laws discriminate against women and make them morevulnerable.
• People with different abilities: In 4.3% of households that are below thepoverty line, the head of the household is disabled or ill (Ministry of EconomicSecurity and Planning, 2000).

At the end of the 1980s, the government implemented a social strategy to combatpoverty that was geared to expanding access to basic social services to includepeople in situations of disadvantage, increasing the number of jobs availablefor these groups and strengthening social care and protection programmes. Theprogrammes to combat poverty, which were intensified between 1995 and 2005, havebeen aimed at promoting activities to generate income and foster youthemployment. However, in many cases the plans to provide education, vocationaltraining, basic health care, potable water, electricity and social housing havebeen distorted. Public effort in these areas has been dispersed, the programmesare not sufficiently coordinated, local communities are only involved to alimited extent, and follow-up and evaluation are lacking, all of which hastended to limit the impact of these programmes.

In May 2005, the government launched a National Initiative for HumanDevelopment, which shows that there is political will to tackle the problems ofthe needy, above all in poor urban neighbourhoods and disadvantaged ruralcommunities. It is still too early to gauge the impact of this initiative, butalready some flaws have become evident: the projects are slow to go intooperation, there are no clear criteria for allocating funds, there is moreconcern with statistics and numbers than with actual concrete results, and thereis friction between institutions as a result of the trend for human developmentcommittees to take over the role previously played by elected councils.

One measure in operation is a system of micro-credits, and while it is too earlyto tell whether this has been effective in combating social exclusion, thebeneficiaries’ living conditions have clearly improved and the scheme isexpanding rapidly thanks to the opportunities it offers. At the end of 2006, themicro-credit sector represented a portfolio of 1,034,162 clients, most of whomwere women (66%).[3]Micro-credits are clearly having a positive impact since most of thebeneficiaries enjoy a rise in income, and participation in the programme fostersthe diversification of activities. However, there is evidence that micro-creditsbasically serve as circulating assets, and that there is no particular focus onpockets of poverty.

Unemployment and lackof job stability

Some 1.5 million people are unemployed, and this problem is getting worse everyyear. In 2004, overall unemployment stood at 11.2% but there were bigdifferences between the rural and urban rates, and also differences depending ongender and educational level. Long-term unemployment (more than 12 months) and‘recurrent’ unemployment have become the main factors underlying socialexclusion. The unemployment rate is higher for women (25.8%) than for men(17.4%), and unemployment among young people is increasing and causing seriousconcern. The percentage of young people who drop out of the educational systembefore graduating and therefore have poor qualifications is high, and this makesthem more vulnerable to labour and social exclusion. Even young people withprofessional training find it difficult to enter the labour market. The relativeweight of unemployed young people who have completed their studies is increasingbecause company recruitment practices tend to be very selective (Ministry ofEconomic Security and Planning, 2005).

Morocco has no overall system forcombating unemployment, and an analysis of the employment measures in placeshows they are highly unsatisfactory. Since 1993, only 29,000 people haveparticipated in work experience programmes, and the so-called‘action-employment’ scheme has performed no better. Only 66,000 youngprofessionals entered the labour market during this period (Ministry ofEmployment, 2006).

In the new labour code some changes were made to labour regulations (the minimumperiod to approve the closure of a factory, the setting of indemnity rates,etc.) but in real terms the prevailing legislation in this field is frailbecause many categories of employees are not covered and most enterprises ignorethe law when drawing up temporary contracts, granting vacation time, or when afactory partially or completely closes down. To make matters worse, the officialbodies in charge of enforcing current legislation do not have the means to dotheir job effectively.

In the informal sector, which accounts for 20.3% of jobs in the country, thereis even less protection. Some 12.4% of the production units in the informaleconomy are run by women, and only 2% of workers in this sector are contractedemployees. Nearly half the production units (46.8%) ignore labour regulations,and 61% pay wages that are below the official minimum salary (Department ofEconomic Security and Planning, 2003).

Challenges and the future of social protection

The country’s largest social protection scheme depends on the National SocialSecurity Fund. Many enterprises have managed to stay outside the system and areunregistered. More than
67% of members are micro-enterprises with five orless employees, and only 38% of registered businesses work for 12 months of theyear. Social security contributions from private sectorenterprises in the National Fund regime amount to only 1.6% of the wealthproduced in the country (Centre Marocain de Conjoncture, 2003).It is difficult for the system to make headway in rural areas and amongself-employed workers. The Fund is hindered in its operations because benefitsare paltry and wages are low, and quite apart from that it does not have animage of efficiency. Therefore it is important to improve the governance of thesystem, not only as regards democratic processes in the political sphere butalso in the institutions that make up the social security system, since this iswhere many of the day-to-day decisions are made.

The question of social protection goes beyond the role of the state and publicinstitutions; it involves all the components of society. The ‘socialquestion’ should be taken into account by all the actors involved, and thenecessary conditions for excluded sectors of the population to be reinsertedshould be created. Civil society must intervene more actively, and indeed it isclear that a new generation of non-governmental actors are emerging in Morocco.Relations between civil society organizations and the state are evolving andmutual distrust is now giving way to the recognition that some kind of synergyis possible. However, there are still obstacles to be overcome before civilsociety can be fully involved in strategic alliances for development. What isneeded is a political and legal framework that is more favourable to increasedautonomy for NGOs, and greater participation on the part of these organizationsin the process of designing, implementing and evaluating decisions that can havean effect on the most disadvantaged sectors of the population.


Centre Marocain de Conjoncture (2003). Etudesur la protection sociale: nouveaux enjeux. La sécurité sociale: quel rôledans la redistribution.

Ministry of Economic Security and Planning (2000). Enquête sur le secteurinformel non agricole. Rapport des premiers résultats. Board of Statistics.

Ministry of Economic Security and Planning (2005).
Enquête activité emploi et chômage. Rapport de synthèse. High Commission for Planning, Board of Statistics.

Ministry of Employment (2006).
Deuxièmes assises nationales sur l’emploi.

Ministry of Finance and Social Security (2003).
Scénarios de reforme pour lesystème de retraite Marocain. Social Insurance and SecurityBoard. Accounting Studies Follow-up Committee.

Ministry of Health (2003).
Les comptes nationaux de la santé au Maroc. 2003. Planning and Financial Resources Board.

Ministry of Health (2005a).
Santé en chiffres.Planning and Financial Resources Board. Informationand Studies Service.

Ministry of Health
(2005b). Politique de santé: acquis,défis et objectifs. Plan d’Action 2005-2007.

Prime Minister. Department of Economic Security and Planning (2003).
Enquête sur le secteurinformel non agricole. Rapport des premiers résultats.Board of Statistics.

To produce this report, Espace Associatif[4] used a participative methodology based on a scheme proposed by an expert in this field, Larbi Jaïdi. A panel of 10 organizations[5] was set up, each from a different thematic area of social protection, and each organization completed an e-mail questionnaire giving its point of view in function of its own activities and objectives. Then there was a meeting at which representatives from the organizations exchanged views, and Larbi Jaïdi was able to check and complete the report. The organizations subsequently made amendments, and approved the final version at a second meeting with Larbi Jaïdi.

In October and November 2007, there will be a process of reflection, and proposals will be presented to involve more Moroccan social actors and NGOs and mount campaigns to promote change and raise awareness about social security in the country.


[1] At the present time there is one basichealth care post per 14,012 inhabitants, which amounts to one hospital bed per1,060 persons (Ministry of Health, 2005a).
[2] Themain source of finance for health expenditure comes from households, whosedirect contributions account for 53% of the total. National and local fiscalcontributions account for only 25% of insurance payments and only 16% oftreatment costs. Other sources of finance make very small contributions: 4% fromemployers (excluding the State and local communities) and 1% from internationalcooperation agencies (Ministry of Health, 2003).
[3] FNAM:<>. See also the web site of one ofthe biggest micro-credit associations, Al Amana <> and anevaluation of the contribution Al Amana makes to the development of itsmicro-enterprise clients.
[4] An association founded in 1996 tostrengthen and promote the associative movement for democratic development inMorocco. Email: <>;website: <>.
[5] This report includes contributions fromFatiha Daoudi, ADFM; Saïd Makhon, Al Amana; Ahmed Douraidi, ALCS; NajatRazi, AMDF; Mohamed Khattab, AMDH; Abdelaziz Ameziane, Carrefourassociatif; Laïla Imerhraneand Amina El Gani, OMDH; Abdellah Lefnatsa, UMT; Abdellatif Ngadi, TransparencyMorocco; Abdesselam Aboudrar, civil society activist.