Maghreb states tackle social protection
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 26/06/12
Social protection systems in Maghreb states continue to suffer from a litany of failings, despite recent efforts to achieve development. Such was the conclusion of a UN report highlighted at a three-day meeting in Rabat, which ended on Thursday (June 21st).
In the past, social protection was the preserve of traditional structures (families), but now there is a need to introduce an efficient and sustainable system, according to Karima Bounemra Ben Soltane, the Director of the North African Office of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
The current climate of global economic slow-down has put the issue of social protection firmly back on the agenda, she pointed out. The unifying theme of youth protests that have shaken the region in the past two years has been social demands, such as decent work, a fair distribution of wealth and better living conditions, Ben Soltane added.
The region has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the world: 9.6% in 2010 and 10.9% in 2011. A slight increase is forecast for 2012, with the rate estimated at 11%.
According to Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) Secretary-General Habib Ben Yahya, post-independence nations across the region have focused on providing education across the population as a way of changing the situation, along with the emancipation of women, who have become key players in Maghreb societies. Today, young graduates are demanding work, but they find it very difficult to get into the labour market, the UMA official added.
"We have to find solutions to fit the problems facing Maghreb societies, and young people in particular. In the UMA, we are currently getting to work on a strategy for young people in the Maghreb," he commented.
Minister of Social Development, Family and Solidarity Bassima El Hakkaoui noted that social protection was a policy area that extends across a number of sectors including employment, the problem of street children, social housing and so on.
Great efforts have been made over recent years, she said, but they need to be stepped up further to meet the targets set.
"There are still threats to social development: child employment, youth unemployment, job losses, weaknesses in care for the elderly and more. We need to tighten up our targeting policies and our monitoring and assessment process," El Hakkaoui said.
According to Ben Soltane, "a suitable social protection system should not just reduce poverty, but also vulnerability linked to income levels, gender, age or even geographical location".
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