Macdonalds in Casablanca

I had, again, a heated discussion with a would-be expat that had totally surrealistic figures in mind.

That’s one of the most frequent mistakes.

Living in Morocco is not cheap

Of course, life in “not expensive” in Morocco, but there is a huge gap between the cost of life for a poor Moroccan, barely making it with 100 to 300 USD / month and the cost of a “normal life” with a good level of comfort and services one excepts when arriving from Europe or North America. Basic products are cheap. All the rest is quite expensive in comparison with normal salaries and wages.

The three most important budget items are :

  1. schooling costs for children
  2. complementary health insurance and pension plans
  3. real estate

Why that ?

For the two first one, simply because the state system, called “public” in Morocco, is just crap, all Moroccans who can afford it go to the private sector. For the last one, real estate, there are a lot of fantasies about what a house or a flat could generate as revenues and profits when you sell again, and, in spite of crisis and difficulties, an increasing demand for quality housing that makes the prices go up.

This trend has stopped in 2019. Nevertheless, I do consider that most of the goods offered on the market are too highly priced for what they are. The impact of the new Covid crisis may force owners to lower prices for selling.

Rents followed the same trend. Believe me, it’s really expensive to rent a flat in Casablanca if you want to be in the upper parts of the city.

Salaries in Morocco

The minimum salary (SMIC) is 2,698 MAD / month. There is no revenue tax on it.

Average salary was 2,368 MAD / month in August 2019. Salaries in private companies are significantly lower than in the administration. Median salary is even lower. In 2017, median salary was 2,712MAD / month vs. 5,120MAD / month for the average salary (yes, the average salary dropped dramatically, due to financial crisis, unemployement and inflation).

Only 14% of employees in the private sector receive a salary of 6,000 MAD/month or more, only 6.8% earn 10,000 MAD / month or more.

Schooling costs in Morocco

If you do not plan to stay for a long period in Morocco, if you are only at the beginning of your expatriation and can change your mind later on, you have no other choice than international schools accredited by the education system of your country of origin.

Bristish International School of Casablanca, International School of Casablanca, and five international American Schools.

Prices are very high : the BISC invoices between 66,000 and 152,000 MAD a year, higher even when they are paid by the company of the parent. The American School in Casablanca tuition fees start at 89,000 MAD / year, up to 143,000 MAD / year. These fees do not include the cost of extra activities.

There are other private schools, less expensive. Prices are lower in the French speaking accredited system (OSUI / AEFE)… but it’s in French. Local “international” school tuition fees would vary between 30,000 and 60,000 MAD / year.

Complementary health insurances

Welfare in Morocco is very basic. C.N.S.S. (the equivalent of the British National Insurance) has very low reimbursement rates and you just have to subscribe to a complementary insurance.

Cost will vary depending of your age, your family structure and your healts. You have good local insurances (Saham, Axa) for 3,000 to 6,000 MAD / year.

If you are employed, it is possible your company offers such a plan. If it does not, you can try to get the cost as an extra salary.

Housing : rental (furnished) flats in Morocco

Real Estate in Morocco is not the Eldorado many people describe. Moroccan real estate developers actively seek customers overseas, during fairs, trying to attract M.R.E. and foreigners willing to establish themselves in Morocco.

When you speak of real estate in Morocco, you have to say a word about riads. We’ll do a full post.

Rental costs are very different between small and large cities, upper parts and popular neighbourhoods, tourist areas and remote places… Flats are very often offered furnished, of course the prices are higher.

You can very hardly find studios and small flats : particularly in Casablanca, unless very lucky, something less than 50 m² will often be squalid. The minimum surface is 100 m²/

In Casablanca, such a flat is usually around 7,500 MAD / month, it can reach 12.000 or 15.000 MAD / month in neighbourhoods like Bourgogne, Gauthier or Racine. With furniture, you add 1,500 to 2,000 MAD / month.

In tourist areas, it’s more difficult to find an empty flat. Owners prefer to rent furnished flats for a short duration during season. But you also have much more small flats and studios. A 80m² furnished flat will be hard to find under 6,000 MAD. In Marrakech and Agadir, prices will be at the same level as in Casablanca.

Build one’s own house is a long and difficult adventure. We’ll speak about that later. Just count 2,500 MAD / m² for a middle level quality construction, on top of the ground price.

Conclusion : monthly budget for a family

Family of four

Our typical expat family of four !

Here is the budget for a family of four (two children going to school) that wishes to live pleasantly in Casablanca, with one trip to Europe per year :

  • housing : 7,500 MAD / month
  • school : 12,500 MAD / month in an English international school, 3,700 MAD / month in a local “international” school or in the French system
  • health, complementary insurance, pensions plans : at least 3,750 MAD / month
  • flights for 4 persons, to Europe : 1,000 – 2,000 MAD / month
  • Electricity, water, gas : 800 – 3,500 MAD / month (power is expensive, air-conditioners costs a lot in summer, as well as in winter if you use them instead of the gas heaters)
  • telephone and internet : 1,300 MAD / month (one fiber optic internet and four montly fixed rates telephone cards, not prepaid)
  • food, leisures, etc : 5.000 MAD / month
  • car (without a driver) : 2,500 – 3,500 MAD / month (based on a lease, with fuel and parking costs)

These figures are for a comfortable life and a European lifestyle (drinking wine and beer, going to the movies, to a private club on the beach…)

Of course, you can live with way less in Morocco. Some things, like restaurants, alcohol, sports, quickly add up, it’s up to you to determine what is important to you.

For example, a basic menu at MacDonalds costs the daily salary of a hand worker. It’s ten times more expensive than in Europe.