Unified national qualification frameworks: A way forward for greater mobility of Pakistani migrant workers

The ILO Country Office for Pakistan organized stakeholders’ workshop to present the state of national qualification framework for higher education and vocational skills in Pakistan, highlighting the strengths; weakness; implementation challenges and the way forward to enhance the mobility of Pakistani migrants.

Press release | Islamabad, Pakistan | 04 February 2019
ISLAMABAD (ILO News): The ILO under its project “Global Action to Improve the Recruitment Framework of Labour Migration” (REFRAME), funded by European Union, organized a stakeholders’ workshop on 29th January in Islamabad to present the key findings of an Assessment Study “State of national qualification frameworks for higher education and vocational skills in Pakistan”. The workshop drew the participation of over 50 relevant officials representing European Union; Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development (MOPHRD); Higher Education Commission (HEC); Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ); Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BEOE); Pakistan Engineering Council; National Training Bureau; Directorate of Workers Education; Pakistan Workers Federation (PWF); Employers’ Federation of Pakistan (EFP); Chambers of Commerce and Industries; Provincial Technical Education and Vocational Training Authorities; Punjab Vocational Training Council; Skills Development Council and renowned researchers.

Mr Gabriel Bordado, ILO’s Specialist on Skills and Employability informed the group that in the Kathmandu Declaration 2014, all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member states agreed to a unified regional mechanism on recognition of skills and qualifications across the sub-region. He further mentioned that currently, there were bilateral approaches in some SAARC member states, however considering the very minimal benefits of such approaches, broad assessment of national qualification frameworks for higher education and technical educational and vocational training system has been undertaken along with gauging the level of interest in a regional recognition framework to develop a regional quality assurance framework for higher education and vocational skills, which can support mutual recognition of qualifications and workers’ mobility across borders.

The key findings of the Pakistan Assessment Study were presented by Mr Muhammad Muneer, ILO Consultant. The study indicated that in response to demands of the labour market and national priorities, the National Qualification Frameworks (NQF) in Pakistan were developed by HEC and National Vocational Technical Training Commission for improving the quality of higher education and vocational skills to provide vertical and horizontal progression to students and trainees and recognize the qualification at the national and international level. Established on the pattern of European Qualification Framework, NQFs encompass relevant sections along with policy guidelines to ensure efficient and smooth development, assessment and management. The study highlighted the strengths, challenges, achievements on the implementation of NQF and solicited the recommendations of stakeholders to develop roadmap for strengthened NQF. The study recommended legal regulatory framework for the implementation of NQF; training of institutions in competency based training delivery and assessment; replacement of old equipment and tools and linkages development between the training institutes and industry.

The Government of Pakistan was committed towards taking measures for the protection and welfare of Pakistani emigrants, stated by Mr Tassaduq Hussain, Joint Secretary, Emigration, MOPHRD. Referring to several important measures that the Ministry had initiated, Mr Hussain highlighted the implementation of biometric verification system for migrant workers, which is connected with National Database and Registration Authority; Federal Investigation Agency; Protector of Emigrants and BEOE and would enable verification of intended migrants; ensure transparent and safe emigration with reliable data storage repository of outgoing and incoming emigrants. In view of reduced emigration towards Gulf Cooperation Council countries, he urged to effectively tap the growing employment opportunities in Japan; Germany; Canada; and Korea. He hoped that unified national qualification framework would assists in recognizing the qualified and skilled Pakistani workforce and eventually facilitate them securing decent work overseas.

Ms Ingrid Christensen, Director, ILO Country Office for Pakistan remarked that several of the national, regional and global dialogues on labour migration have recommended the development of a mechanism for the recognition of skills and qualifications at international level which will make the Pakistani migrants more competitive in the foreign labour market and enable them secure decent employment across borders.

Dr Nicole Malpas, [title] stated that skills development was amongst the high priorities of EU, therefore several technical and vocational education and training projects were being supported in the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan by EU. Blessed with demographic dividend, it was the opportune time for Pakistan to make investments on the TVET sector, aiming to enhance the capacity of the workforce.

HEC is mandated to provide guidelines for uniformed semesters; bachelor; internship and credit hours for the professional training, Dr Ismail stated on the occasion.

Mr Zahoor Awan, General Secretary, PWF emphasized the need for initiating agreement based on this framework between the workers’ organizations in the countries of origin and destination in order to protect the human and labour rights of migrant workers. Citing the example of Oman and Kuwait, he highlighted that Pakistani should initiate discussions with the countries with large of Pakistani emigrants to sign agreements for improved working conditions.

Mr Akram Farid, representing the EFP drew attention to the weak linkages between the industry and technical training which needs to be bridged together with up-gradation of skills. NAVTTC and provincial TEVTAs should take into account the emerging global market needs to produce skilled human resource aligned with the demands of international labour market.

Consensus was reached on having unified aligned national qualification framework, and the stakeholders recommended the establishment of joint committee, co-chaired by HEC and NAVTTC to align the existing frameworks into unified national qualification frameworks, recognizing the horizontal and vertical mobility of workers across borders.