CE26 - Innovation, Travail

Challenges of the rise of wage labor iat the gates of Europe. The prism of Tangier – ENDLESS

Stakes of the rise of wage labor at the gates of Europe. The Tangier prism

The rise of wage labor, in the context of strong internal and external migration, raises the question of the international division of labor strategies of large multinationals working mainly for the European market, the attractiveness of a low wage cost for a population having mainly experienced informal activity, and the social and cultural effects of engaging in salaried industrial work for a female population long excluded from employment.

A social laboratory to study a new form of globalization

The Tangier region, opposite Gibraltar, has experienced for the last twenty years an exponential boom in industrial wage labor, associated with strong migration movements, internal and external in Morocco and the establishment of «free zones«, where many large international companies have set up, particularly in the automotive sector: equipment manufacturers, as well as the manufacturer Renault. This development is currently gaining ground, notably with the manufacturer Peugeot, which is setting up in Kénitra, further south of the country. What does this new form of labor globalization at the gates of Europe come up with? Our hypothesis is that the Tangier area constitutes a «social laboratory« for all the actors concerned: for the staff of the companies, who are perfectly aware of the rupture thus introduced in their social existence, but also for the management, almost entirely Moroccan, and for public officials who are worried about the long-term viability of what they are building and which appears before their eyes, in turn actors and spectators of an unprecedented social change. Are these jobs perceived, evaluated and invested as waiting positions, for lack of anything better, provisional stepping stones, substitutes for Europe, or are their forms (salary, time, civil, interactional, etc.) invested more sustainably? This will include studying the extent to which new industrial «habits« transform the social representations of the populations concerned in spheres of their lives other than the factory itself.

The missions carried out on site made it possible to carry out numerous semi-structured interviews with directors of establishments, heads of personnel, company executives, qualified public or private agents, working in the field of employment, vocational training, planning, social protection, various witnesses of social changes (journalist, doctor, retirees), but also workers. These last interviews were partly conducted in dialectal Arabic by the doctoral student member of the team, originally from Tangier. In total, more than 100 interviews have already been carried out as part of the activities covered by the ANR contract. Some interlocutors have been met several times during successive missions. In addition, important documentary material was gathered during these missions: Moroccan public statistics, sometimes unpublished; company documents and, in particular, anonymized personnel files of two companies; photographs which show the rapid development of the city of Tangier.
At the same time, a historical survey is being carried out on the economic and social history of Tangier in the colonial and post-colonial period. The Moroccan archives in Rabat and Casablanca and the archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nantes were used on four successive missions. The first conclusion of this investigation is that the international status of Tangier during the colonial period, far from favoring its economic expansion, blocked it, due to the dissensions between the mandatory powers. The relative relegation that the region experienced during the reign of Hassan II is therefore in part the consequence of colonial stagnation. The particularly favorable geographical location of this city will therefore not be exploited until very late.

Seen from the side of Tangier, industrial development must be considered as a «total social fact« according to the formula of Marcel Mauss, which involves all dimensions of social life. The personnel management policies carried out within companies, the development of a public and private vocational training sector, should not be approached solely as «economic« phenomena. Global social change is underway. All dimensions of social life are transformed simultaneously: relationship to work, training system, family structures, housing conditions, relationship to the city, forms of leisure, in the context of demographic upheaval, since due to growth urban, the majority of present-day residents of Tangiers are not from the region.

Appreciate the scope and limits of this movement towards wage earning, experienced by employees as access to a “new world”, understand the repercussions of this experience on their lives, their individual and collective learning and the associated social horizons, should allow us to interpret this «new world«, while questioning the sustainability of this wage system, and the way in which it can affect the prospects maintained vis-à-vis the work, the family, the couple, but also citizenship, migration and Europe.

- Bidet A., Ouédraogo J.-B., Rot G., Vatin F. (2017), « Une nouvelle économie politique de l’industrie : la zone franche de Tanger », Revue marocaine des sciences politiques et sociales, hors série XIV, « Economie politique du Maroc », dirigé par N. Akesbi, A. Berrada, M. Oubenal et M. S. Saadi, p. 221-240.
- Bidet A., Ouédraogo J.-B., Rot G., Vatin F. (2018), «A new political economy for industry: the Tangier free zone« n°12, Vol. 18, Revue Marocaine des Sciences Politiques et Sociales, p. 215-235. (translation of title from Arabic).
- Vatin F. (2019), « Salariat ouvrier et émancipation féminine au Maroc » (note critique), Revue Française de Socio-Économie, vol. 2, n° 23, p. 221-225.
- Vatin F. (2020), « Capital industriel et capital humain : la leçon de Tanger », in Mohammed Benlahcen Tlemçani, Zineddine Khelfaoui, Sofiane Tahi (Eds.), Capital humain et dynamiques économiques, Paris, L’Harmattan, Coll. Questions contemporaines (sous-presse).

Our project addresses the contemporary changes in work and employment considered globally. To do this, he relies on a particularly evocative case: that of the region of Tangier located at the gates of Europe, opposite Gibraltar. This region has been experiencing an exponential rise in industrial wage-earning over the past twenty years, associated with strong migration movements, both internal and external to Morocco, and the establishment of "free zones" where many large international companies have settled, particularly in the automotive sector: equipment manufacturers, as well as the Renault manufacturer. This development is currently expanding, including the Peugeot manufacturer who moved to Kenitra, further south.
Our project is based on first inquiries, which allowed us to draw up the general framework of the project, by identifying the economic and social constraints that weigh on this development and by identifying the wage and industrial model specific to the free zones of the region of Tangier. We now intend to develop a second, more anthropological part of the research, in order to appreciate more finely the scope and the limits of this movement of salarization, lived by the employees whom we interviewed as the access to a "new world". It is about understanding the impact of this experience on employees' lives, their individual and collective learning and the social horizons they envisage. We will be able then to interpret this "new world" and question the durability of this wage installation, and the way in which it redesigns the perspectives maintained with respect to the work, the family, the couple, the citizenship, but also to Europe and migration.
What is this new form of globalization of work inventing at the gates of Europe? Are these jobs perceived, valued and invested as waiting positions, for want of better, temporary springboards, substitutes of Europe, or are their forms (salary, time, civil, interactional, etc.) invested more sustainably? This will include studying to what extent the new industrial "habitus" transform the social representations of the populations concerned in other spheres of their lives that the actual plant. In this respect, it will be necessary to consider in a differentiated way the destinies male and feminine, but also their crossing and their combination through the matrimonial choices of the ones and the others. Complementary research in areas of emigration to Tangier such as Oujda or in areas close to the Tangier model, such as Kenitra, will allow us to identify more generally the general dynamics at work in Morocco, which seems to be today one of the places where is invented a new wage-earning, which must be seized at the scale of the globe

Project coordination

Alexandra Bidet (Centre Maurice Halbwachs)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


CMH Centre Maurice Halbwachs

Help of the ANR 172,476 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2018 - 36 Months

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