Morocco: Reducing Gender Inequality Can Boost Growth

Anta Ndoye and Vincent Dadam, Middle East & Central Asia Department Lisa Kolovich, Strategy, Policy & Review Department                                           

March 1, 2017


Policies that better integrate women into the economy could help increase overall income and significantly improve Morocco’s growth prospects, IMF study finds.

Jamila is a 12-year-old girl living in rural Morocco. She is still in school when most girls her age are not—about 78 percent of girls between the ages of 12 and 14 are no longer in formal schooling in the country’s rural areas. Her dream is to become a doctor, and if she stays on track with her education she should be able to accomplish this goal.

But significant challenges stand in Jamila’s way—a slowing economy over the past five years, limited job opportunities (22 percent youth unemployment), and fewer women in the workplace as compared to men (25 percent participation rate compared to over 66 percent).

The government has started to implement policies that better integrate women into the economy, but more still needs to be done to help young girls like Jamila achieve their dreams.

Women and the economy

As part of the assessment of Morocco’s economy, we looked at the relationship between gender inequality and growth and found that policies that better integrate women into the economy could significantly improve the country’s growth. For instance, if there were as many women working as men currently are in Morocco, income per capita could be almost 50 percent higher than it is now.

Furthermore, Morocco’s population growth is slowing, and the United Nations projects that the dependency ratio—the age population ratio of those out and in the labor force—will rise by 2040. This means that there is a potential for more people to be out of work over the next few decades. Continuing to implement policies that eliminate gender gaps—such as increasing access to education and improving public transportation (making it safer and easier to get to work) for women, vocational training and literacy programs for rural areas—could offset these negative effects.

Improving women’s rights

The government has already initiated the following steps:

  • The family code was revised to expand the rights of women in marriage, guardianship, child custody, and access to divorce in 2004.

  • A constitutional guarantee for equality was enacted in 2011.

  • Maternity leave of 14 weeks at full salary was introduced in 2004.

  • The first and most advanced gender budgeting initiative in the Middle East and Central Asia region was launched in Morocco in 2002. Gender budgeting uses fiscal policies and administration, at the national, state, or local level, to address gender inequality and women’s advancement.

More reforms needed

Even with these improvements, our research points out that stronger and better targeted measures are needed to increase female labor force participation and employment, and to address gender gaps in education in Morocco.

For instance, our study found that:

  • Investing in public childcare facilities could free women’s time, enabling them to undertake more educational and training activities, and join the labor market.

  • Tax deductions or credits are currently only available to men, who as taxpayers are able to claim a dependent deduction for both spouse and children. A female taxpayer may not claim similar tax advantages unless she proves that she is a legal guardian.

  • Conditional transfer programs for education, as recommended in the recently-adopted national employment strategy, can promote better access to secondary education for girls. The transfer programs could also support literacy programs for women in rural areas, female entrepreneurship, and vocational training programs for all women.

If all these actions are implemented, there is no doubt that the barriers to Jamila’s economic participation would be greatly reduced, and she would have more opportunities to contribute to a more prosperous and inclusive Moroccan society.

How Low-income Countries Can Grow and Diversify

May 28, 2014

By Chris PapageorgiouLisa Kolovich, and Sean Nolan

(Version in Español)

Low-income countries have spent a lot of time thinking about how they can achieve faster growth, and we have done some research to help them.We found that pursuing export diversification is a gateway to higher growth for these economies. Using a newly constructed diversification toolkit, our empirical analysis shows that both the range and quality of the goods a country produces has a direct impact on growth 

Country trends 

Low-income countries have historically depended on a narrow range of primary products and few export markets for the bulk of their export earnings.

But export diversification is associated with higher per capita incomes, lower output volatility, and higher economic stability—relationships that can be tracked using our new publically available  dataset, which gives researchers and policymakers access to measures of export diversification and product quality for 178 countries from 1962-2010.

We have looked at two measures of export diversification and their impact on economic growth.  One measure captures diversification into new product lines, the other development of a more balanced mix of existing products.  Analysis using these measures shows that export diversification in low-income countries is indeed among the most effective drivers of economic growth.


Since the mid-1990s, there has been a notable increase in export diversification in low income countries, particularly in South Asia, and a shift from agriculture to manufacturing production in many of these economies.  For instance, Vietnam transformed its economy from a low-end agricultural exporter to a successful middle-range manufacturing exporter in less than two decades.

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa have had more varied experiences with diversification compared to other regions.  For example, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya underwent significant export diversification in the last 20 years, yet many other countries in the region have not.

Typically diversification in East and South Asia has been accompanied by a rapid decline in the share of agricultural exports—from 40 percent in 1965-1970 to 15 percent in 2006-2010—along with a steady increase of the manufacturing sector—from 17 percent in 1965-1970 to 66 percent in 2006-2010.  But in Africa, the sizable shift away from agricultural exports has been met with only a small rise in the share of manufacturing exports.

All regions, including sub-Saharan Africa, have made significant progress in diversifying their exports across partners. This trend is related to the ongoing process of globalization and a clear shift in low-income country trade away from the European Union and towards Asia—China in particular— and sub-Saharan Africa. 

Quality, not quantity

New products and trading partners underpin economic development, and so do quality improvements to existing products.

Low-income countries’ small economic size and limited potential to exploit economies of scale may imply that the cost of moving into many new products is high, making quality upgrading within existing products a more feasible route to diversify.

To quantify quality upgrading—producing higher-quality varieties of existing products—we developed a new dataset that measures quality for 851 products in almost all countries. 

The new data show that since the mid-1980s, developing countries in the East Asia and the Pacific region have seen a steady increase in the overall quality of their exports quality, driven mainly by upgrades in the manufacturing sector.  On the other hand, sub-Saharan Africa experienced a steady decrease due to limited quality upgrading in the manufacturing sector, coupled with a significant fall in quality upgrading in agriculture.

We see particularly rapid quality upgrading during the early stages of development, which is associated with higher growth.  This relationship holds strongest in the manufacturing sector.

But we also find that ample quality upgrading opportunities exist in agriculture, which is particularly important since in low-income countries, this sector still employs a large share of the population.

Therefore it would be a mistake to overlook agricultural development as a means of diversifying production and upgrading quality.  In fact, low-income countries will find that when they modernize and transform their agricultural sectors they can reap substantial gains in both productivity and quality.  For instance, agricultural diversification can support entry into new products and accelerate the transition from subsistence farming to production for the market.

Policies to help diversify the economy

Low-income countries should consider diversification and quality upgrading a fundamental component of their development strategy, given their important roles in enhancing growth. How then can these countries diversify into new products, and upgrade the quality of existing products?

Findings from our empirical analysis reveal that a common set of economic fundamentals and policies are associated with various dimensions of diversification.

Investment in human capital and infrastructure, institutional quality, financial deepening— increased efficiency, depth, and breadth of financial systems— and proximity to markets are all drivers of export diversification.

Economic policies can also encourage diversification and quality upgrading.  For example, increasing stability, like Vietnam’s push to reduce inflation in the late 1980s, reducing direct barriers to entry, such as the dismantling of the state distribution system in Tanzania, and reforming the agricultural and banking sectors helped promote diversification.

However, as our country case studies demonstrated, there is no universal diversification trajectory, and a one-size-fits-all approach to diversification and transformation should be avoided.

The new Diversification Toolkit provides easy access to highly disaggregated, product-level data on export diversification and product quality, enabling country authorities, policy makers and researchers to conduct more detailed, country-specific analysis.

By IMFBlog| May 28th, 2014|AfricaAsiaEconomic outlookEconomic researchFinanceGlobalizationgrowthInternational Monetary FundInvestmentLICsLow-income countriesUncategorized