Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Sri Lanka as the Chair of the Colombo Process Thematic Area Working Group (TAWG) on Skills and Qualification Recognition and Thailand as the Chair of the TAWG on Labour Market Analysis co-hosted a joint TAWG meeting on 23-24 January 2018 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Under the theme of “Building synergy between Skills and Qualification Recognition and Labour Market Analysis”, a total of 64 Senior and Technical Officials from the twelve Member States of the Colombo Process and resource persons participated in the two-day meeting. Resource persons were invited from the Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), key countries of destination, international organizations, and private sector.

The joint TAWG meeting was convened in recognition of the importance of building synergy between the two interlinked thematic priorities of the Colombo Process, as reliable labour market information is imperative for informing skilling programmes of migrant workers while a robust skills and qualification recognition framework will facilitate improved migrant workers’ access to existing and new labour markets.

The meeting was co-organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) within the framework of IOM’s Regional Project “Strengthening Labour Migration Governance through Regional Cooperation in Colombo Process countries” with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Under the broad objective to provide an avenue for the Member States to engage in in-depth thematic discussions in line with the respective TAWG goals and key tasks, Day 1 of the meeting was dedicated to Skills and Qualification Recognition. The key focus of the discussion was exploring possibilities to establish a Regional Qualification Framework (RQF) including a draft road map towards RQF. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) for migrant workers was another key topic of the discussions as well as exploring various models of skilling migrant workers that are being initiated in the region.

Day 2 focused on Labour Market Analysis, covering capacity building of Labour Market Research and Analysis units, gauging labour market trends and experiences of countries of destination (CODs). A representative from the Government of Bahrain presented on their Flexi Permit System as a pilot initiative and a representative from the Human Resources Development Service of Korea, the Republic of Korea, shared the country’s Employment Permit System. Participants also discussed joint programme activities in this area and agreed to conduct a baseline survey of Labour Market Information Systems of the Member States, replacing the previously agreed activity to develop a Labour Market Research Operational Guide. They also agreed to convene a training workshop for labour attachés who play the key role in collecting labour market information in CODs.

Given that the joint meeting also served as the second face-to-face meeting of both TAWGs, in the last session of the meeting, each TAWG met as a group, assessed progress towards their respective goals and key tasks, and identified priority points for future meetings. Salient points from the group discussions that were shared in the concluding plenary discussion included:

• Both groups agreed that TAWG meetings are serving as a valuable platform for sharing experiences, concrete initiatives and researches among the Member States.
• Members of the TAWG on Skills and Qualification Recognition shared that they will focus on linking the national, bilateral and regional efforts regarding qualification recognition frameworks, noting that bilateral/ corridor approaches may yield gains in the short-term compared to a regional approach. However, a feasibility study could be carried out to explore the process – likely beginning with benchmarking among countries of origin (COOs) and later linking with CODs.
• Members of the TAWG on Labour Market Analysis stated that their priorities will be the baseline survey of Labour Market Information Systems of the Member States and the training workshop for labour attachés as the agreed joint activities. They also expressed desire for further engagement with CODs to cooperate in this thematic area.

The outcomes of the group discussions, including the above points, will feed into the respective TAWG Chair’s reporting at the next Senior Officials’ Meeting of the Colombo Process.