By Siham Ali
Moroccan society is witnessing massive demographic and social shifts, a recently released National Demographic Survey concluded.
While the average Moroccan born in the 1960s had a life expectancy of 47 years, it has now risen to 74.8 years, the findings conducted in 2009-2010 revealed.
“There has been an increase of 28 years, resulting from the drop in mortality rates in the various age groups. The speed at which these rates have changed is, as we know, strongly related to the extent of improvements made in sanitary and living conditions,” explained High Commissioner for Planning Ahmed Lahlimi at a Rabat press briefing on Monday (March 14th).
The Morocco infant mortality rate, though still high, has fallen considerably. In the early 1960s, almost one child in every seven died before their first birthday, compared with one in 33 today.
Recent years have seen a sizeable reduction in fertility, according to Lahlimi. In 2004, the fertility rate was 2.46 children per woman. But in six years, it has dropped approximately 2% per year. “This is quite a remarkable phenomenon when the fertility is already low,” he said.
According to the official, these transformations in reproductive behaviour suggest underlying changes in marital practices. The marriage age has increased considerably in the past fifty years. In 2010, women married at an average age of 26.6 and men at 31.4, which is 9.3 and 7.5 years later, respectively, than in 1960.
The indicator is higher in urban areas than in the countryside, with rural men marrying on average 2.5 years earlier than those living in towns and rural women tying the knot 1.8 years earlier than city dwellers. Today, nine out of ten women aged 15 to 19 years are still unmarried.
Endogamy, which has traditionally been encouraged as a way of maintaining family cohesion or safeguarding family assets, fell from 33% in 1987 to 29.3% in 1995, reaching 21% in 2010. The current divorce rate is 10.5% compared with 31% in the 1960s.
Far-reaching changes had occurred in value systems and social behaviour, against a backdrop of considerable cross-fertilisation of Moroccan populations under the effect of immigration, Lahlimi said.
The falling demographic rate can also be seen in the reduced population under 15, which made it possible to increase inputs into education and improve the quality of those entering the labour market, he explained.
Economist Saâd Beddari told Magharebia that the importance of such a study lies in the identification of new needs, so that changes can be made to match the society transformations.
The working population, essentially made up of young people, is without doubt a considerable asset, he said, but that requires the state to step up its rate of investment in leading sectors. This, Beddari argued, can partly be done by adjusting the education and training system to match the new requirements.
Detailed analysis is needed to bring practical solutions to the emerging problems, according to sociologist Samir Kassimi.
“We have seen, for example, more and more single people – both men and women – because of socioeconomic problems,” she said. “We see more and more older women who do not work and are not married. They are looked after through family solidarity. The state needs to take new these changes into account in order to plan suitable support mechanisms.”