Mr Benkirane’s latest speech betrayed his deep reactionary prejudice, though it certainly is not the first time his own Weltanschauung goes off the rail:
or two years earlier:
While praising gender-based government policies for the past two decades, and reaffirming his government’s commitment de jure in achieving gender equality, particularly on the labour market, the Head of Government touched upon a subject worthy of debate, though his speech was factually wrong. Families do not hurt because women go out for work. In fact, there is little evidence to suggest that families are in crisis. It is true on the other hand that they have matured and transformed beyond the comfort zone of reactionaries like Mr. Benkirane.
Active women in Morocco are a minority, both in the workforce and in the total female population: for the past five years, the gender ratio in the workforce was 3:1 in favour of Men. There has been an actual decline in female labour participation in fact, and the graph below shows it is the primary reason behind the drop in overall labour participation:
Since 1998-1999, there has been a sharp decrease in labour participation, particularly so among active female workers, whose levels have not been yet reached. It could be estimated that for every percentage point lost to labour participation, there are two for the female population, and less than one for the male workforce. If anything, female labour participation has fared worse in the past 15 years. As a result, there are more, and not less inactive women. This would mean, in Mr Benkirane’s view, more eligible stay-at-home moms.
There is a cost to this decline however: since 2000, and assuming women maintained their pre-1998 levels of participation, GDP would have benefited from 5 Billion dirhams on average for the past decade. Similar computations put the benefits of a full gender equality on labour participation (around 72%) to a full percentage point in growth, enhancing the 4.76% average of 2000-2011, to 5.55%.
Mr Benkirane’s point about the supposedly adverse effect on family cohesion does not stand scrutiny as well: the percentage of young Moroccan women, from 15 to 24 has actually declined in the past 15 years: in 1999, one young Moroccan woman was active, in 2013, only 1 in three was out on the job market. A remarkable figure that concludes to a decline in the number of this particular cohort: there are fewer working young Moroccan women. This cohort is critical as it coincides with the tail end of the average age at first pregnancy in Morocco. In short, there are more young women, in percentage of total population and absolute numbers, with no work constraints to conceive and raise a family. This fact is at stark odds with Mr Benkirane’s assertion that working women are a threat to family stability.
|Year||15-24 Pop||15-24 Female||Working Female|
|1999||5 754 514||3 016 227||1 453 821|
|2013||6 222 000||3 173 220||1 028 123|
This suggests the causes of any hypothetical family crisis in Morocco are not due to female labour participation. If anything, it makes good economic sense to have as many women out on the job market as possible: first, as many have access to eduction (at least primary) it and given the secular downward trend in female fertility, women should have as many opportunities as possible to go out and get a job, part or full-time; indeed, a rough estimation of market counterpart to household activities suggests educated but inactive women cost an average of 1.32 percentage point of GDP; this means that stay-at-home moms with even a primary education certificate are a gross waste of government resources, even if they decide to have a lot more children, which they don’t.
Second, what Mr Benkirane decries is not a disintegration of families per se, but rather the gradual disappearance of a lionized traditional structure at odds with the changes the Moroccan society continuously undergoes. It also illustrates the irreconcilable trade-off PJD faces on social policies: on the one hand, they cannot renounce official slogans of gender equality, but on the other, their electoral powerhouse is primarily based on the idea of an activist social conservative State.
The setbacks for women’s economic rights are bad enough such as they are: education without an occupation is an economic waste to be sure, but it also subverts the central goal of public education, particularly so for women.
The latest press statement from the Government’s Spokesperson does not deviate from an established line of argument whenever a global ranking does not square with the official claim of Moroccan progress. The latest of such event was the 2014 Freedom House ranking: Morocco ranked 147 out of 197, in the 75 lower percentile for Freedom of the Press. Without prejudice to Freedom House’s methodology, is there any way to verify the claim Morocco’s progress was understated in this ranking? And if so, where would we be?
A preliminary comparison does not put us in such a bad place after all, in view of the Arab Spring aftermath: Morocco ranks well among MENA countries, although this comes hardly as a good indicator, given the dramatic positive changes in Tunisia and Libya since 2010, and on the other side of the spectrum, Bahrain and UAE did worse.
Morocco however did not improve its ranking thanks to government policies, as the communique alleges, in fact, there has been a slight degradation with respect to its pre-2010 score, but not enough to affect its ranking. As the saying goes: in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed is king.
Taken to the global level, things are not as straightforward: on the one hand, the decline in Morocco’s score is not large enough to label it a regression in press freedom, on the other hand, global trends around 2010-2011 provide a good estimate for what should have been the trend score and ranking. In any case, Morocco did not do well enough, and probably does not deserve the improvement in its ranking.
The communique states:
Force est de signaler que certains pays qui ont connu des arrestations de journalistes, saisies de journaux et fermetures de portails web, ainsi que d’autres qui sont instables, ont toutefois occupé des places meilleures que celle du Royaume, qui n’a pas enregistré de telles décisions, a relevé M. Khalfi.
Of the 14 countries labelled ‘Not Free’ better ranked than Morocco, some did for some register arrests and/or censorship, but the fact of the matter is that Morocco’s weakness comes from its relatively low political sub-score: the final score is summed over three categories (Legal, Political and Economic) and the determining factor had been the sub-ranking on Political Freedom, where Morocco does comparatively worse. Per Freedom House’s methodology, the various initiatives heralded in Morocco do not meet the standard set by, among others, the Universal Declaration of Rights, and so do not register in favour of Morocco’s political sub-score. In short, the post-2011 reforms were not enough to overtake other countries, on par or slightly better ranked.
All of this does not absolve the Moroccan authorities: at the national level, the trend should have been improving since the mid-1990, which is not the case, and at the sample level, comparative benchmark point to a substantial improvement which did not materialize.
The graph on the right plots Morocco’s actual versus hypothetical scores between 1993 and 2013. A downward trend means an improvement in freedom status, and that was not the case for Morocco: the hypothetical trend is derived from the average performance of countries with comparable scores in 1993, and those have improved dramatically their score throughout, even as Morocco recorded a reversal as early as 2001 with no improvement ever since.
The increasing gap between Morocco’s actual and best-case scenario scores describes its failure to push through with the structural reforms carried out during the mid-to-to late 1990s; it also provides a stark reminder the ‘New Era’ of political liberalization started well before 1999, meaning all announcements made since have not translated into reforms strong enough to register as actual improvement in Morocco’s score and rankings.
Score break-down analysis allows to pinpoint the roots of this lacklustre performance, and provide pointers to the Moroccan authorities and the civil society in terms of reform priorities.
Recall overall score is computed on three components, and countries labelled ‘Free’ tend to exhibit a significant effect from the Economic Rights category: Free and Partially Free Countries experience a 24% lower Economic Rights score compared to the rest of the world. This relates directly to the main argument behind Morocco’s, particularly so in light of the established criteria:
1. To what extent are media owned or controlled by the government and does this influence their diversity of views? (0–6 points)
2. Is media ownership transparent, thus allowing consumers to judge the impartiality of the news? (0–3 points)
3. Is media ownership highly concentrated and does this influence diversity of content? (0–3 points)
4. Are there restrictions on the means of news production and distribution? (0–4 points)
5. Are there high costs associated with the establishment and operation of media outlets? (0–4 points)
6. Do the state or other actors try to control the media through allocation of advertising or subsidies? (0–3 points)
7. Do journalists, bloggers, or media outlets receive payment from private or public sources whose design is to influence their journalistic content? (0–3 points)
8. Does the overall economic situation negatively impact media outlets’ financial sustainability? (0–4 points)
These questions only show why the score is comparatively low for freedom of the press from an economic perspective, and those provide a good starting point for genuine reform if the Moroccan authorities were serious about the initiatives they mentioned in the communique.