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06CASABLANCA435 2006-05-02 11:19:00 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Casablanca
Cable title:  

LEGAL GUIDELINES FOR MOROCCAN DOMESTICS IN THE

Tags:   LAB MO PGOV PHUM 
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1. (SBU) Summary: More than two years after adopting a new
Labor Code, Morocco is finally working to plug a gaping
hole left by the Code, a hole through which thousands of
children slip each year. Morocco's Director of Labor,
Abdelaziz Adoum, confirmed to laboff this week that a draft
proposal of a new law regulating domestic work is currently
being reviewed by Moroccan labor unions for comment. The
proposed law is aimed at regulating all domestic
employment, with special guidelines for workers between the
ages of 15 and 18. While there is no mention in the
proposal regarding the issue of workers under the age of
15, the hope is that by finally regulating the sector
Morocco's problem with exploitation of minor girls as
domestics or "petite bonne" will be indirectly addressed.



2. (SBU) In 2004, Morocco adopted a Labor Code that
standardized issues including hours of work, minimum wage,
and social security. The code makes clear that it is
illegal to employ children under 15 years of age, however,
it lacked any guidelines for domestic help where a great
majority of minors are employed. In fact, Article Four of
the Labor Code stated that the domestic sector would be
addressed in proposed separate legislation. That
legislation is now on the way. End Summary.



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Better Than Nothing, But Not Much


--------------------------





3. (U) Morocco's minimum wage or SMIG, is nowhere near a
living wage and the new guidelines for domestics cut that
in half, bringing the minimum wage for these employees to a
mere 950 dirhams a month, or approximately USD 100. In
addition, the SMIG is based on a forty-four hour work week,
a far cry from the 67 hour weeks of most young domestics.
The draft also proposes a six day work week instead of the
normal seven for domestic help, as well as 21 vacation days
a year after the first year of service, similar to other
salaried employees. The draft proposes more importantly,
the requirement of a legal agreement between the two
parties that outlines the rights and responsibilities of
each, a copy of which is to be filed with an office
established for that specific purpose.



4. (SBU) Perhaps the most radical proposal, and the one
that will be the most difficult to enforce, will be the
establishment of a team of inspectors who will visit homes
that employ domestics age 15 to 18 every three months in
order to inspect working conditions. Labor Director Adoum
explained to laboff that one way the GOM is considering
easing the resistance to the inspection teams entering
domiciles is to make the majority of the inspectors
women. Adoum told laboff that the GOM believes using
female inspectors will allow easier entry into the sanctity
of the home, still a woman's domain in Morocco. He also
expressed his belief that girls may be more open to
speaking up to a woman about any difficulties they may be
facing in the homes, the main reason behind the visits.
Unfortunately, many of these girls, as young as six or
seven, find work through family members or agencies who
take a commission from the employer and a cut of the girls
salary. The girls are then pressured to stay in the
arrangement no matter what the conditions of employment or
risk retaliation by the facilitator.



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But A Step In the Right Direction


--------------------------





5. (C) Adoum confided to laboff that he understands that
this measure will not end Morocco's problem of domestic
servitude for minor children. He is optimistic, however,
that it will soon regulate the situation in up to forty
percent of all households with domestic help, at least
alleviating the problem. He confidently predicted that the
draft will be ready for approval by the end of the year.



--------------------------


The Reality of the Situation


--------------------------





6. (U) Currently, according to a 2005 report published by
UNICF, Morocco has approximately 600,000 children between
the ages of seven and 15 working illegally. According to
E

the report, 42 percent are girls, the majority of whom work
as domestics. The number of child domestics in Casablanca
alone is estimated to be approximately 23,000, most of whom
are illiterate and work an average of ten to twelve hours a
day seven days a week. Most of these girls work for
pennies a day and many never even see a salary at all since
it is handed directly over to a parent, guardian, or
agent.



--------------------------


Comment


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7. (SBU) Morocco's problems with child labor in general
and child domestics in particular have plagued the country
recently and were highlighted as a serious problem in this
years Department of State Human Rights Report. While the
issue is being highlighted in the media more and more, and
is becoming a frequent topic of conversation among the
socially aware in cities like Casablanca and Rabat, the
majority of the population still find nothing wrong with
the practice. In recent conversations with a variety of
intelligent, educated Moroccan acquaintances, laboff was
told repeatedly that these children are better off working
as a domestic for a kind employer than they would be at
home, a prevalent attitude in Casablanca. Obviously,
regulating a sector that has always been informal will be a
huge challenge for Morocco and will entail not only a
change in Moroccan law but an adjustment in the cultural
mind set as well. If the law passes, however, it will join
other dramatic ideological reforms working their way into
Moroccan law, such as the recently adopted Labor and Family
Codes.
GREENE