Mutual Recognition Framework to Facilitate Labour Mobility within the Pacific Region

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The need for an effective regional-wide mechanism for the recognition of qualifications to facilitate greater labour mobility among the countries negotiating the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus was discussed at a seminar on Mutual Recognition of Qualifications at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand on 17-19 February 2015.

 

Mutual Recognition

Participants at the seminar on Mutual Recognition of Qualifications in Auckland, New Zealand

 

The seminar was organised by the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser with the financial support of Australia and New Zealand and the European Union, in collaboration with the South Pacific Board for Education Quality (SPBEQ) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS). The objective of the seminar was to consider a regional framework that recognises the qualifications of and assures the mobility of qualified workers within the PACER Plus area and also to other international labour markets.

The seminar was attended by two representatives each from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. They were mostly from Ministries of Education, National Qualification and Accreditation Authorities, Public Service Commissions and Labour and National Training Councils.  Resource persons from SPBEQ, the Australian Qualifications Framework Council and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority were also present.

In his opening remarks, the Chief Trade Adviser of the PICs, Dr Edwini Kessie, highlighted the importance of having a credible framework for the recognition of qualifications to facilitate greater labour mobility within the region.

“There is acceptance among PACER Plus Parties that greater labour mobility within the region will confer significant benefits on the PICs, which currently have preferential access to limited segments of the labour markets of Australia and New Zealand,” Mr Kessie said.

“An agreement on mutual recognition of qualifications among the PACER Plus Parties would provide a further boost to labour mobility across various occupational areas and enhance the participation of the PICs in international trade.”

 

A representative from PNG, Mr Kinsella Geoffrey, Director of the National Training Council Secretariat, said that the seminar has enabled him to learn about the best practices on the recognition of qualifications from other countries.

“I have been able to learn from other countries about the status of their National Qualifications and Quality Frameworks and determined how PNG’s Framework can be improved,” Mr Geoffrey said.

“A Mutual Recognition Framework among PACER Plus Parties will significantly raise the confidence and trust levels of labour receiving countries. It will give some form of assurance that qualifications have met some verifiable standards which, in turn, would promote greater labour mobility among qualified workers in the Pacific region.”

There were several regional and multilateral qualifications frameworks that were considered at the seminar, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Qualifications Reference Framework and the Caribbean Community Qualifications Framework.

“Exploring options on a regional mutual recognition of qualifications framework for qualified workers in the region is an important initiative. This can facilitate their effective mobility into regional and international labour markets, thus contributing to inclusive growth and sustainable development. The Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) labor mobility arrangement would also benefit from such framework,” said Ms Veniana Qalo, Trade Policy Adviser at PIFS.

PIFS participation in the seminar was funded by the European Union through the 10th European Development fund as a key activity under the Pacific Integration Technical Assistance Project (PITAP).

The PACER Plus Parties will further discuss the issue of mutual recognition of qualifications at the tenth intercessional meeting, which is scheduled to take place in Port Vila, Vanuatu in the week of 23 March.