Mutual recognition framework to facilitate labor mobility in Pacific

Marianas Variety:

Friday, 27 February 2015

SUVA, Fiji (Office of the Chief Trade Adviser, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat) — The need for an effective regional-wide mechanism for the recognition of qualifications to facilitate greater labor mobility among the countries negotiating the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations or PACER Plus was discussed at a seminar on Mutual Recognition of Qualifications at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand on Feb. 17-19, 2015.

The seminar was organized 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 and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. The objective of the seminar was to consider a regional framework that recognizes the qualifications of and assures the mobility of qualified workers within the PACER Plus area and also to other international labor markets.

The seminar was attended by two representatives each from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. They were mostly from Ministries of Education, National Qualification and Accreditation Authorities, Public Service Commissions and Labor and National Training Councils.

Resource persons from the South Pacific Board for Education Quality, the Australian Qualifications Framework Council and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority were also present.

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

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

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

A representative from PNG, 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.

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

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 labor markets, thus contributing to inclusive growth and sustainable development. The Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement labor mobility arrangement would also benefit from such framework,” said Veniana Qalo, Trade Policy Adviser at Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat or 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.

The PACER Plus Parties are expected to 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 March 23.

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