GFMD holds joint workshop with ILO on Labour Migration and Skills

Geneva, Switzerland—On 3 May 2018, the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) 2017-2018 Co-Chairs, Germany and Morocco, in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO), convened a GFMD Thematic Workshop on Labour Migration and Skills. The day-long workshop aimed to inform the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) negotiations, with knowledge, experiences and good practices of different stakeholders and explore how the GFMD can support the GCM  in advancing the commitments laid out in Objective 18: “Invest in skills development and facilitate recognition of skills, qualifications and competences.”

In welcoming over 100 migration and development policymakers and practitioners from governments, international organizations, civil society and private sector, the Moroccan GFMD Co-Chair, Mr. El Habib Nadir, stressed that international migration is a natural and inevitable phenomenon. As such, multi-stakeholder cooperation is necessary to overcome challenges in labor mobility, such as the lack of skills recognition and integration systems for migrant workers. For his part, Mr. Sönke Lorenz, representing the German GFMD Co-Chair, held the view that countries have to invest not only in up-skilling and re-skilling native workers, but also in the acquisition of skilled workers from abroad to meet growing skills demand. On the same note, Mr. Moussa Oumarou, ILO Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnerships, underscored the need for policy coherence between employment policies, labour market needs assessment, and migration policies that strike a balance between addressing labour market needs and protecting vulnerable migrants.

After the opening session, four mutually related workshop sessions looked at:  i.) understanding skill demands for labour mobility; ii.) responding to skill demands for labour mobility and local labour markets; iii.) recognition of skills and qualifications; and iv.) the way forward towards a Global Partnership on Skills and Migration.

Below summarizes the highlights of the challenges and opportunities in labour mobility, including some good practices in fostering skills recognition and qualifications:

Workshop Sessions Challenges Opportunities
I. Understanding Skills Demand for Labour Mobility
  • information on skills demand is either nonexistent or limited
  • economic globalization, technological change and the presence of large informal sectors present challenges for skills identification and matching
  • lack of systems for skills-anticipation presents risk of brain drain and brain waste
  • legislations that facilitate mobility of qualified migrant workers
  • skills needs assessment for existing labour market information systems (LMIS)
  • direct recruitment and coordinated investments in vocational training and skills recognition procedures
II. Responding to Skills Demand for Labour Mobility and Local Labour Markets
  • migrants’ skills are often incompatible with employment requirements
  • migrants working in developing countries tend to be over-skilled for their jobs, and have lower bargaining power when seeking employment
  • negative impacts of climate change and natural disasters on labour supply
  • timely and flexible labour policies to give flexibility to new and traditional business models
  • mechanisms to address region-specific challenges on migration
  • research and extensive data collection on labour markets in both developing and developed countries
III. The Recognition of Skills and Qualification
  • inadequate use and valuation of foreign-born skills by countries of destination
  • lack of accessible skills recognition services during migration
  • gap between low and higher education sectors in the skills recognition process
  • frameworks and one-stop-shops for the assessment and recognition of foreign qualifications
  • policy levers to incentivize skilling and hiring of skilled migrant workers
  • contextualized language training, mentoring, on the job training and paid internships
IV. Way forwards towards a Global Partnership on Skills and Migration
  • lack of migration corridors for low-skilled migrants and informal occupations
  • migrants’ inadequate security and benefits from employers
  • insufficient attention of employers and governments to labour market demands
  • a “Global Skills Partnership” to address the multi-faceted challenges of labor mobility
  • use of trusted employer programs, work authorization mobility, increasing labour participation of vulnerable populations
  • capacity building of national institutions to invest in skills development


All speakers across the workshop sessions emphasized that labour migration can be a powerful tool for responding timely and effectively to labour supply and demand needs, as well as stimulating innovation and economic development in countries of origin, transit and destination.

In closing, Mr. Sönke thanked the participants on behalf of the GFMD Co-Chairmanship. The discussions, he appraised, brought to light a number of policy challenges and opportunities that are highly relevant for the ongoing GCM negotiations. He also stressed that the issues covered are important both for Germany and for the GFMD, and merit further discussions, especially in the framework of the GFMD business mechanism. Mr. Sangheon Lee, ILO’s Director of Employment Department, affirmed the need for coordinated policy actions on labour mobility and skills and expressed optimism that the GCM can facilitate partnerships on skills identification, development and recognition. He concluded by giving assurance of ILO’s readiness to support efforts at promoting global skills partnerships and working more closely with the GFMD in achieving shared objectives.