Recognition of qualifications of migrant workers at national and bilateral level, as well as support to Regional systems to facilitate the recognition and verification of migrant workers' skills and qualifications.

Migrant workers are over-represented in jobs and tasks that require fewer and lower level skills, are lower paid and offer restricted career prospects. Migrant workers, especially women migrant workers, are often subjected to “deskilling” and “brain waste” during their migration experience. In order to gain access to employment migrant workers not only need to possess relevant skills, but also need to be able to signal and validate these skills to potential employers. They need to have relevant and verifiable skills in order to gain access to job opportunities and to adjust to changing labour markets. This means skills need to be transferable between jobs and easily recognized by employers – i.e. portable.

The low capacity of national recognition bodies and processes in both sending and receiving countries has been one of the major barriers of skills portability and recognition of migrant workers’ skills, but is not the only one. Skills recognition at country level and between countries can be promoted by instruments available at international level or negotiated at bilateral, regional, or multilateral levels.

The African Union is working on the development of an African Continental Qualifications Framework (ACQF). The ACQF is a policy instrument that will contribute to enhance comparability and transparency of qualifications; facilitate mutual recognition of certificates; improve mobility of learners and workers across the continent; and promote cooperation and alignment between different qualifications frameworks (national, sub-regional) in Africa, and eventually with other frameworks globally.

The SAMM project will support on-going processes such as the SADC Qualifications Framework (SADCQF) which is a Regional Qualification Framework (RQF) to enable easier movement of learners and workers across the SADC region and internationally. It is underpinned by learning outcomes and quality assurance (QA) principles that provide a regional benchmark for qualifications and quality assurance mechanisms in 8 SADC Member States; namely, Botswana, Lesotho, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia. Those countries have started piloting the alignment of the national qualifications frameworks with the SADCQF and to date the relevant authorities in Seychelles and South Africa have reported that their National Qualifications Frameworks are fully aligned. The outcome of aligning the NQFs of Member States with the SADCQF allows for the mutual recognition and transferability of skills and qualifications across the region.

The SAMM project will also support the implementation of the digital E-Credentialing system (piloted in South Africa) and the SADC E-certificate which is being piloted in four countries of the SADC region (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia as part of the SADCQF implementation plan “verification cluster”. A Technical Committee on Certification and Accreditation (TCCA) – comprising a group of experts from the 16 SADC member states and supported by the SADC secretariat – was constituted and given the task of implementing the SADCQF.

At international level the following instruments call for the recognition of migrant workers’ skills and qualifications:

  • ILO Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143). Article 14(b) specifically refers to the recognition of occupational qualifications acquired abroad, including certificates and diplomas;
  • ILO Human Resources Development Convention, 1975 (No. 142), which promotes the adoption and development of “comprehensive and coordinated policies and programmes of vocational guidance and vocational training, closely linked with employment, in particular through public employment services”; and,
  • ILO Human Resources Development Recommendation, 2004 (No. 195). Part VI, paragraph 12 indicates that “Special provisions should be designed to ensure recognition and certification of skills and qualifications for migrant workers.”


Following Objective 18 of the GCM, the ILO, IOM, UNESCO, ITUC and IOE have agreed to forge a Global Skills Partnership on Migration (GSP) to support countries in the identification, formulation and implementation of partnerships on skills and migration between countries of origin and destination.

  • Assessment of the capacities of national administrations, RECs’ secretariats (SADC, COMESA and IOC) and skills’ systems to facilitate the recognition and verification of migrant workers’ skills and qualifications at various levels;
  • Comparative skills profiling surveys and assessment of skills recognition opportunities facilitating refugees and asylum seekers’ access to the labour market in South Africa and Zambia
  • National assessments and capacity building on uptake of RECs’ regional qualifications framework and other mechanisms for skills recognition and mobility. Country case study – Mauritius
  • Piloting on RECs’ regional qualifications framework and other mechanisms for skills recognition and mobility initiatives – country case studies – Mozambique with possible inclusion of Mauritius and Namibia
The Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) Objective 18 “Invest in skills development and facilitate mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences” mentions that Member States commit to invest in innovative solutions that facilitate mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences of migrant workers at all skills levels, and promote demand-driven skills development to optimize the employability of migrants in formal labour markets in countries of destination and in countries of origin upon return, as well as to ensure decent work in labour migration.


To realize this commitment, the following actions are included:

(a) Develop standards and guidelines for the mutual recognition of foreign  qualifications and non-formally acquired skills in different sectors in collaboration  with the respective industries with a view to ensuring worldwide compatibility based  on existing models and best practices;

(b) Promote transparency of certifications and compatibility of national  qualifications frameworks by agreeing on standard criteria, indicators and assessment parameters, and by creating and strengthening national skills profiling tools, registries or institutions in order to facilitate effective and efficient mutual recognition procedures at all skills levels;

(c) Conclude bilateral, regional or multilateral mutual recognition agreements or include recognition provisions in other agreements, such as labour mobility or trade agreements, in order to provide equivalence or comparability in national systems, such as automatic or managed mutual recognition mechanisms;

(i) Enhance the ability of migrant workers to transition from one job or employer to another by making available documentation that recognizes skills acquired on the job or through training in order to optimize the benefits of upskilling;

(j) Develop and promote innovative ways to mutually recognize and assess formally and informally acquired skills, including through timely and complementary training for job seekers, mentoring, and internship programmes in order to fully recognize existing credentials and provide certificates of proficiency for the validation of newly acquired skills;

(k) Establish screening mechanisms for credentials and offer information to migrants on how to have their skills and qualifications assessed and recognized prior to departure, including in recruitment processes or at an early stage after arrival to improve employability;

(l) Cooperate to promote documentation and information tools, in partnership with relevant stakeholders, that provide an overview of a worker’s credentials, skills and qualifications, recognized in countries of origin, transit and destination, in order to enable employers to evaluate the suitability of migrant workers in job application processes.