Heated debate in Morocco over brain drain

The Moroccan Labour Union parliamentary bloc said current programmes have not halted or reduced the brain-drain-related bleeding.
Sunday 31/03/2019
A 2017 file picture shows state-employed medical professionals demonstrating outside the health ministry,in Rabat. (AP)
Qualified and in demand. A 2017 file picture shows state-employed medical professionals demonstrating outside the health ministry,in Rabat. (AP)

RABAT - The brain drain of young professionals from Morocco has become a centre of debate and controversy in intellectual, media and official circles. The kingdom has the second highest rate of brain drain in the Middle East and North Africa region, a recent study indicated.

Efforts to combat the trend began in 2007 when the Moroccan government introduced the International Forum for Moroccan Competencies Abroad (FINCOME) to attract young Moroccan professionals and academicians working abroad back to Morocco and integrate them into the country’s higher education, scientific research and business sectors.

Minister of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research Said Amzazi said FINCOME is one of many strategies and programmes Morocco has been working to implement to stop brain drain.

FINCOME established institutional links with Moroccan professionals abroad and created a database of qualified people, as well as of public and private institutions in Morocco involved in research, development, training and in the transfer of technology and scientific knowledge. The programme also aims to provide expertise in fixing development goals and strategies in various sectors, evaluating research projects and in attracting investments and partnerships.

In his speech commemorating King and People’s Revolution Day last August, King Mohammed VI pointed out that “many young people in Morocco, especially university graduates in science and technology, are thinking of emigrating, not only because of the tempting material incentives abroad but also because they do not find in their country the appropriate conditions for employment, career advancement, innovation and scientific research.”

He added that “it is for the same reasons that a number of Moroccan students abroad are not returning to work in their country after completing their studies.”

A study published by the Arab League last year revealed that there were about 50,000 Moroccan students studying abroad and about 200,000 Moroccan experts in various fields who chose to work outside their country.

A study by Recruit website, a leading recruitment firm, said 91% of Moroccan graduates dream of leaving the country and of finding career opportunities abroad because they believe that migration from Morocco will help them progress and develop their careers.

Hishem Motadhad, a teacher and researcher of political and strategic sciences in Canada, said the Moroccan government was not taking the issue of brain drain seriously, especially when, now more than ever, Morocco must be keen on retaining qualified people and giving them the status they deserve by creating the right professional and social conditions because they are important to the sectoral mechanisms that will help Morocco deal with the current and potential future challenges.

Motadhad called on the Moroccan government to deal responsibly with curbing brain drain and said “it must work seriously to attract back Moroccan experts and competencies residing abroad and integrate them in order to contribute to the acceleration of the country’s development.”

“It’s the human capital that is the foundation of every country’s socio-economic development and the reservoir of the collective memory that is at the basis of any national prosperity,” he said.

The Moroccan Labour Union parliamentary bloc said current programmes have not halted or reduced the brain-drain-related bleeding. It attributes the phenomenon to the lack of political will, lack of proper follow-up and accompaniment of new graduates and to low wages in addition to widespread cronyism, social unrest and restrictions on freedoms.

The Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research affirmed that the emigration of Moroccan talents is a joint responsibility of several ministerial sectors and requires further national mobilisation to promote the country’s economic fabric and ensure the success of the new development model that the country seeks to put in place.

Data released by the Moroccan ICT Federation indicate that about 8,000 IT engineers and technicians graduate from Moroccan universities and institutes each year. However, 10-20% of them migrate abroad, even though there is a strong need for their talents in Morocco’s labour market.

Amzazi said the high percentage of Moroccan expertise being recruited abroad and the classification of Morocco as the second country in North Africa and the Middle East in “exporting” experts, are testimonials to the excellent “quality of training and education” in Morocco with foreign countries falling over themselves to recruit engineers, doctors and researchers trained in Morocco. Some observers saw in the minister’s statement an encouragement for qualified Moroccans to leave the country.

Motadhad said the real reasons behind the brain drain in Morocco is the desire of those migrating to improve their personal economic and social conditions and those of their families, in addition to their search for self-development and for building their career paths.

Most Moroccan professionals seeking to go abroad emigrate to France. Each year, thousands of doctors and engineers in Morocco leave the country headed to Europe. Although Morocco needs such professionals, they prefer to seek a place that provides them with decent living conditions, appropriate social status and the rights they deserve.

If Morocco has a good reserve of top-level cadres and highly qualified professionals by international standards, then, for Motadhad and other experts and professionals, the absence of fairness in terms of employment opportunities and the lack of transparency in recruitment and promotion may be reason enough to push them to opt for emigration.

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