COVID 19 and Women economic fragilities in Morocco

Morocco - Kathya Kenza BERRADA - 05/04/2021 11:04

- Due to the precarious nature of the working ecosystems in which they generally operate, women have particularly been impacted by the outbreak of the COVID 19 with more severe work-related insecurity and anxiety.  

- The grassroots and the advocacy work of civil society organisations largely contributed to reshaping the underlining legal framework, yet disparities persist between both genders with noticeable inequalities.

- A new generation of research based advocacy and activism is needed today to tackle women economic challenges. 

We are now ten months into the first declared case of COVID 19 in Morocco; the sanitary crisis has very rapidly been felt socially and economically in the country. Due to the precarious nature of the working ecosystems in which they generally operate, women have particularly been impacted by the outbreak of the COVID 19 with more job and salary cuts as well as more severe work-related insecurity and anxiety. The health crisis has indeed exacerbated existing systemic socio-economic fragilities and inequalities impacting women in Morocco. 

Despite expressed political will endorsed by the official state institutions to ensure a fair redistribution of resources, the data reveal inequalities between men and women in term of access to education, primary healthcare and employment. Women participation in the workforce in the private sector is mainly concentrated in textile, agriculture and food industries, where the working conditions and remunerations are not in women advantage. In fact, wages inequality is more prevalent in private sector as compared to the public sector. Women working in the private sector are often paid at the minimum legal wage rate also known as SMIG in Morocco. As regards entrepreneurship, there is technically no discrimination between the two genders in terms of incentives and access to financing, yet women account for only small percentage of entrepreneurs in Morocco. 

Prior to 2003, the former Commercial Code prohibited women from carrying on business without the permission of their spouses and therefore limited women’s freedom to invest. However, the code was amended and by the nineteens, women could exercise commercial activities without the permission requirement.  At the level of legislation, the right of women to work is guaranteed by Article 12 and Article 13 of the Constitution and by legislation regulating the employment sector. Those constitutional provisions have been strengthened by the reform of the Labour Code (2003) which emphasizes equality and the fight against all forms of discriminations (article 346 of the Labour Code declares “the prohibition of gender-based wage discrimination for work of equal value”). In addition, the Law n° 103-13 lists different punishments for all kind of violence against woman. Furthermore, article 40 of labour code considers harassment as a severe misconduct, and the resignation of the victim of such violence or harassment is considered as unfair dismissal. The labour code conforms to international standards. However, this code is only applicable to formal sectors while it is assumed that 80% of women work in the informal sector.

Despite relatively improving legal framework, cultural roles associated with women still relate more often to serving the husband, raising children and domestic work. Unfortunately, the media has contributed in maintaining this kind of stereotypes via TV programs and advertisements portraying women in those traditional roles. Despite some changes, the roles of women are still perceived as different than those associated with men by society and when employment is rare, men are generally prioritized.

The grassroots and the advocacy work of civil society organisations, human right activists and women rights associations have largely contributed to reshaping the underlying legal framework. Yet, more work is needed today to tackle challenges facing women in the workplace. Indeed, while there is today abundant literature when it comes to women civil rights in Morocco, there is a real shortage in terms of studies dedicated to women working conditions. Most of the available studies in this direction were conducted as the first step of larger implementation projects by international donors such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). A lack of information is also noted when it comes to human resources practices targeting women. 

There is a real need today to examine, analyse and come up with practical recommendations to improve women working conditions. It is clear that the underlying issues here are at the confluence of a number of factors, yet young researchers and civil society actors can contribute in defining and consolidating new approaches in engaging with different stakeholders to advance much needed policy reforms aiming at improving women employability and working conditions in Morocco.