ILO Skilling migrants: A triple win for government, migrant workers and employers

The International Labour Organization calls for collaboration and knowledge sharing among key stakeholders to ensure skills training and recognition for migrant workers.


NEW DELHI (ILO News) – An ILO inter-regional expert forum is underway put forward how skilling is a win-win situation for both employers at destination countries and workers from source countries, This high-level expert forum is being attended by over 80 participants from 12 countries – India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Jordan, Indonesia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. This includes officials from various government departments, representatives from both employers’ and workers’ organizations, key resource people from the private sector, civil society and other UN agencies.

The two-day forum has presented new research and discussed the impact that skilling has on migrants’ wages and working conditions, and also the extent to which migrants are able to transfer their knowledge and skills after returning home from the Middle East. The findings of the forum and the various perspectives from a diverse range of expertise and experience from participating countries will shape a number of practical proposals to be carried forward through cooperation at the national, bilateral and regional levels. The outcomes will also feed into the consultations on the Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration.


Skills recognition systems for migrant workers


Skilling and skills recognition systems across borders can have multiple benefits – greater employability, improved wages and working conditions for workers; and more efficient job matching, reduced training time and higher productivity for employers. Several countries in the Middle East are moving towards knowledge-based economies, and the anticipated restructuring of those labour markets is also leading countries that send migrant workers to invest accordingly.

Addressing the forum on the first day, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, spoke about the increasing need for better integration of vocational training and the education system. Skill ecosystem in India, he says, has been strengthened but number of challenges continue to persist when it comes to both inter-state and international migration. There has been an increased focus on, on-the-job training through apprenticeship, skills recognition, better data collection, pre-departure trainings, and certification among other initiatives. “We are working towards creating a robust system of labour management information system (LIMS) and we want to integrate this horizontally and vertically”, he says. “Under the National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) nearly 7,000 occupational standards and 15,000 entry-level skilling needs have been identified.”

However, there has been limited evidence that the skills development for migrant workers going from South Asia has delivered on its potential. Workers are still too often selected according to their ability to pay recruitment fees rather than on their qualifications. When they return home, the skills acquired abroad are rarely put to good use. “More collaboration and knowledge sharing are fundamental to improving the efficiency of skills recognition systems for migrant workers,” says Deborah Greenfield, Deputy Director General of the International Labour Organization. “Policy-makers at both ends of the corridor need accurate assessments of skills needs and gaps, and also up-to-date information on the changing needs of business. But in addition to the government agencies and the employers, the design, implementation and monitoring of the skills recognition schemes needs to engage workers, training providers and recruitment agencies.”

Barbara Weyermann, Programme Manager, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Nepal, highlights the impact of training in Nepal. She says, “90 per cent of the workers rated trainings as being useful, it increased their confidence, helped them pick new knowledge, resulted in employability, higher incomes and also lowered their pre-departure costs.” However there have been challenges. “Often the salaries offered was lower than what the workers expected and the recruitment costs too were high. Training alone doesn’t guarantee better employment or higher wages.” She adds that Nepal is looking at re-introducing result-based financing, work on training on demand, testing and certification to ensure the training quality and also is planning to undertake systematic tracing and randomized controlled trials.

Sharing the UAE experience, Raaj Singh, Managing Director, Snathe Skills Training, UAE says, “Training systems need to be aligned with what the Gulf countries need. There is a need to standardize the system, and grading of workers so that they can go above the ranks. The Government should make training mandatory for both destination and origin countries.”

The event comes on the heels of the 106th Session of International Labour Conference held in Geneva in June, where it was discussed how demographic challenges makes it urgent to develop coherent and predictable labour migration policies so as to leverage the potential of skilled migration in the face of looming skills shortages in many countries. The meeting of G20 Labour and Employment Ministers in May this year also identified skills development and recognition as the primary approach for improving employability for migrants and for returning migrants. It called on ILO and other institutions to support effective international cooperation at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels to develop skills recognition systems.