Controversial domestic labour bill adopted in Morocco

Sunday 19/06/2016
A young Moroccan girl performs during a play organised by the not-for-profit association Insaf in the western town of Chichaoua during World Day Against Child Labour.

Casablanca - The Moroccan parliament adopted a controversial bill regulating domestic work. The measure has been strongly criticised by civil society organisations.
The government was forced to add an amendment that made the legal work minimum age 18 years rather than 16 during a transitional period of five years following pres­sure from civil society and interna­tional organisations, which have been lobbying the government for years for regulations regarding do­mestic workers, especially minors.
Moroccan non-governmental organisation Insaf denounced the bill, which it said would allow the exploitation of child domestic workers for five years.
“For unexplained and inexplica­ble reasons, upon the proposal of the minister of Employment, law­makers voted in Article 6 of the law a five-year period during which the exploitation of minors is permit­ted,” said Insaf in a statement pub­lished online.
The Moroccan association said the government proposal is not ac­companied by concrete action to reinsert minor domestic workers into society.
“The voted text includes no in­dication of the practical arrange­ments and does not refer to any text that legally pulls out minors from exploitation in households and ac­company them in the long process of extraction from exploitation, re­habilitation and reintegration into families and schools, which is our main demand, after limiting the minimum age to 18 years,” added the statement.
Moroccan Minister of Employ­ment and Social Affairs Abdeslam Seddiki said: “We have responded to the call of associations concern­ing the minimum age to be 18 in a few years.”
The amendment may have not satisfied many in civil society but the new legal framework for do­mestic workers, who were previ­ously ignored by law, is a major social progress for thousands of people.
According to figures published by civil society organisations involved in the fight against child labour, there are 66,000-88,000 “little maids” in Morocco, 60% of whom are younger than 12 years. The ma­jority of them are from poor, rural areas. Poverty, low household in­come and lack of education are the main factors that drive parents to allow their children to be domestic workers.
Minors are forced to work as “lit­tle maids” to provide for their fami­lies who cannot make ends meet, especially in times of drought. They represent steady income for their parents, whose crop remains at the mercy of good rainfall.
The rising cost of living in big cit­ies also drives parents with low in­come to force their children to work for upper-middle class households where women are looking for do­mestic help as they are entering the traditional labour market.
Many minor girls find themselves without an education because of the gender discrimination in ru­ral areas and the lack of schools. Others drop out of school because they cannot afford to continue their studies.
Some child domestic workers, who are overwhelmingly girls, work 12 hours a day, seven days a week for as little as $11 a month, according to a report Lonely Servi­tude: Child Domestic Labour in Mo­rocco, released by Human Rights Watch in 2012.
“Working in private homes, many of these girls endure terrible condi­tions but have no idea where to turn for help,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.
A minimum monthly salary of $160 for a maximum 48-hour work week is required by the proposed measure, which will be submitted to a vote in the lower house and then be published in the official bulletin before effectively becom­ing law.
The bill requires employers to es­tablish a contract with the worker regarding social security and holi­day periods. It provides for protec­tive measures against hazardous work and establishes repressive penalties that can lead to imprison­ment for violations of the law.
It remains to be seen if the law will be enacted before parliamenta­ry elections October 7th and wheth­er it will be respected. However, the law sends a strong signal to Mo­roccan households that domestic workers have rights, including the right to dignity.