South Asian countries affirm need for a regional Qualifications Reference Framework for enabling the movement of skilled workers across borders

Opening address by Ms Dagmar Walter, Director, ILO DWT/CO-New Delhi at the First Technical Meeting - South Asia Qualifications Reference Framework.

Statement | Online Meeting | 15 February 2022
Distinguished government officials and technical experts,

Colleagues from ILO, IOM, UN Women,

Representative from our partner SDC,

Ms Andrea Bateman, lead consultant

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Joint UN Programme on Governance of Labour Migration in South and South East Asia – the GOALS programme (jointly implemented by ILO, IOM and UN Women), it gives me immense pleasure to welcome you all to the first of the five technical meetings convened for the development of the South Asian skills qualification referencing framework.

This is an extremely important beginning as it brings together key technical institutions from South Asia to recognize qualifications across borders as a means to facilitate and improve outcomes of labour mobility.

Over the past few years, several national, regional and global discussions on labour migration have put forward recommendations related to the development of frameworks to recognize qualifications across borders as a means to facilitate mobility.

In the 2016 SAARC Plan of Action on Labour Migration, the member states agreed to “strive towards arriving at a regional skills qualification framework which could be used as a reference for bilateral agreements, wherever possible, with destination countries or at regional and international consultative fora.”

The Global Compact for Migration adopted in 2018, to which all South Asian member states are signatories, contains a dedicated objective where member states have committed to invest on facilitating mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences.

There have been similar commitments made by South Asian member states in other forums and policy dialogues.

It is therefore important to say that the need for a regional qualifications framework has come primarily from the member states.

Building on these commitments, the ILO commissioned a feasibility study in 2020. The study assessed the potential of a regional qualification framework in South Asia from different government agencies. Through this study there was a clear understanding of the importance and the interest of having a regional framework.

We all know from experiences from other regions in the world that an RQF facilitates mutual trust and understanding of national qualification frameworks in a region. The South Asia qualifications referencing framework, once developed, will help to compare the different national qualification structures.

I wish to underscore here that a regional framework will not replace existing national qualification frameworks or reduce the scope of the national approach in anyway.

On the contrary, the RQF will serve as means to support and strengthen the existing national skills and qualifications systems.

The South Asia qualifications referencing framework will enable employers in countries of destination to gain from the best skills set available and compare qualifications of the workers across countries of origin. This will help to implement evidence-based selection procedures – which will eventually contribute to worker’s being hired on the basis of their competency and merit and can then also get better returns on value. As a result, workers are recruited fairly and should not have to bear the burden of high recruitment fees and related costs.

Overall, the regional framework will facilitate recognition of qualifications across the region for purposes of labour and student mobility, as well as promote nationally and regionally consistent standards.

As member states embark on this journey to create a common framework and facilitate mutual recognition of qualification systems, I can assure you that ILO will provide all the necessary support to this work going forward. However, to ensure ownership and to promote mutual learning, we will be guided by your expertise and leadership.

Before I end my words, I would like to acknowledge the tremendous commitment and support we have received from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation for this work, SDC.

I thank you for your kind attention and wish you fruitful deliberations.