A Call for Consultancy – Comparative skills profiling surveys and assessment of skills recognition opportunities – refugees and asylum seekers

Terms of Reference

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

1. Background

The Southern Africa Migration Management (SAMM) project is a model of a ONE-UN approach collaborative effort between 4 UN Agencies with a humanitarian or development mandate: the ILO, the IOM, UNODC and UNHCR. The (SAMM) project forms part of the European Union Regional Indicative Programme (11th EDF RIP) for Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean (2014–2020) which includes among its objectives the facilitation of safe, orderly and regular migration and the prevention of irregular migration. It focuses on South-South migration flows, identifying positive spill-over effects of international migration on regional integration and regional economic development.

Its overall objective is to improve migration management in the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region guided by, and contributing to, the realisation of the 2030 Development Agenda (goals 8 and 10).

It is comprised of two main project components: 1. Labour Migration; and 2. Mixed Migration. The first component supports the implementation of the UN Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) and the second one the application of the UN Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), as well as of the GCM.

Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are key stakeholders in SAMM’s implementation. One of SAMM’s key project priorities is to support the formulation and realisation of International Labour Migration and Mixed Migration Frameworks of: i) the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), ii) the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and; iii) the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC).

The project focuses on the Southern African Region, and targets the following 16 SADC countries: Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Work under this consultancy is linked to SAMM’s Workplan as follows:

Result/output 1.4. RECs and Member States have enhanced the portability of skills of migrant workers and refugees, including through alignment of qualifications with existing Regional Qualifications Frameworks and/or the implementation of other recognition mechanisms.**

Activity Conduct comparative skills profiling surveys and assess skills recognition opportunities facilitating refugees and asylum seekers’ access to the labour market in South Africa and Zambia.

2. Technical Context (Global and at the SADC level)

Large mixed migration movements of refugees and persons displaced by violence, conflict, persecution, human rights abuse, disasters and environmental change continue to top the global political agenda and remain at the forefront of concerns, discussions and collaboration across the multilateral system.

The latest UNHCR (20202020), Global Trends Report registered 26.4 million recognized refugees[1] and 4.1 million registered asylum seekers out of a total of 84.2 million of forcibly displaced persons worldwide in 2020**[2]**. Significant new displacement over the last five years affecting millions of people was recorded in Africa. The top ten countries of origin of refugees** included seven from Africa: South Sudan (3rd major country of origin of refugees in 2017), Somalia (fifth-largest source country of refugees in the world in 2017), Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic, Eritrea and Burundi[3].

Of the total number of forcibly displaced persons only a very small minority gain access to labour markets in the formal economy, opportunities for decent work and satisfactory conditions of employment and rights protection in the workplace.[4]** There are many reasons for this, including policy and legislative limitations, and as a result many asylum seekers, refugees, and stateless persons who do find work do so mostly in the informal economy.

As displacement has become increasingly protracted, responses have turned towards identifying durable solutions that would support more dignified, inclusive and comprehensive programmes for refugees to facilitate self-reliance and strengthen social cohesion. At the core of self-reliance is access to decent work, livelihoods and formal and informal education.

Competition in the highly crowded informal economy, where most migrant workers, people in a refugee-like situation and other displaced people search for work, results in unfair competition for informal and unprotected jobs. This downward impact on working conditions and rights at work may have a knock-on effect more widely across labour markets, ultimately affecting all workers, including nationals.

In some countries, particularly those hosting large numbers of refugees as well as migrants, public services come under strain, and more pressure is placed on already fragile labour markets. Sometimes these pressures translate into political and social tensions between host and refugee/displaced populations, especially in already poorly served and overcrowded urban areas where these populations settle. Often ‘foreigners’ are targeted and no distinction is being made related to the specific status of the person (i.e. whether a refugee or a migrant).

In addition, the precarious situation of these populations renders them vulnerable to discriminatory practices which can lead to exploitation, dangerous working conditions, the denial of fundamental principles and rights at work and situations of forced labour, bonded labour and child labour.

Recognizing these challenges, a paradigm shift is taking place among international development and humanitarian actors and donors to look beyond critical humanitarian assistance and to include early intervention of development actors.

The ILO has increasingly acknowledged the need to strengthen the nexus between humanitarian assistance and the development dimensions of the overall response to crisis situations with decent work strategically placed at this intersectionAccess to employment and livelihoods has emerged as the bridge between humanitarian action and development cooperation and, in this context, the ILO continues to play its part in supporting critical response programmes, including through strengthening its own policy framework to be able to respond more rapidly and effectively to crisis situations.

While strengthening resilience and capacities in host communities, the ILO also supports efforts to enhance socio-economic inclusion of refugee populations in a manner that does not destabilise national and local economies; undermine national and local labour markets; or create further labour market segmentation or informality. Thus, the ILO approach is founded on the premise to “do no harm” to national economies and labour markets. This approach enables refugees and Persons of Concern5 to participate in and contribute meaningfully to the economies and societies of host countries, while not disadvantaging national workers and host communities.**

At the same time, the low capacity of national skills recognition bodies and processes in both sending and receiving countries has been one of the major barriers of skills portability and recognition of PoCs. PoC are over-represented in jobs and tasks that require fewer and lower level skills, are lower paid and offered less career prospects. PoC , especially women migrant workers, are often subjected to “deskilling[6]” and “brain waste[7]”, through the migration corridors.

Recommendation No. 195 (2004) concerning human resources development: education, training and lifelong learning, 2004, defines portability of skills along the following two dimensions:

(a) employable skills which can be used productively in different jobs, occupations, industries; and;

(b) certification and recognition of skills within national and international labour markets.

In order to gain access to employment PoC not only need to possess relevant skills, but also need to be able to signal and validate these skills to potential employers. Thus, PoC 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.

Policies to develop portable skills have the potential to benefit individual PoC, enterprises, the economy and society, as:

  • With more widely relevant and recognized skills, individual workers improve their employability and adaptability, as well as their ability to receive wages commensurate to their level of competencies;
  • Portable skills contribute to human development as they empower people, increase individual worker’ choices and capabilities, and help PoC make full use of their talents and skills. Women are more likely to be affected by “brain waste” and therefore have a high potential to gain from enhanced portability of their skills;
  • Enterprises and organizations in the public and private sectors benefit from more effective matching of skills demand with supply and from easier adaptability of the workforce to changes in technologies;
  • Labour market efficiency improves due to lower transaction costs in job search and recruitment;
  • The economy benefits from decreased frictional unemployment, smoother adjustment to external or policy-induced shocks (macroeconomic shifts, technological changes, trade liberalization) and more sustainable economic growth and employment and,

The recognition of skills of vulnerable groups and women who tend to face discrimination in the labour market, promotes economic and social inclusion, decent work and fair globalization.

The portability of skills ultimately depends on a trusted source of information. Therefore, recognition tends to be most successful when established through social dialogue involving governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations and education and training institutions. This is true for both formally certified qualifications and informally acquired skills. In addition to mutual or multilateral skills recognition established between countries, most skills recognition happens unilaterally, i.e. the country itself decides whether skills or qualifications are recognized on the national labour market. This is particularly important for regulated occupations where access is barred if people do not possess the required qualifications. Countries can:

· Recognize formally certified foreign qualifications: Countries have established a wide range of institutions and mechanisms for recognizing formal qualifications. While unilateral recognition by a single destination country is still the most common form, complex certification procedures and competency tests in countries of destination may impose financial and time-related costs on PoC and tend to create an uneven playing field for PoC . Moreover, information on skills shortages in countries of origin is rarely taken into account and hence risks contributing to brain drain.

· Recognize informally gained skills: A relatively new area of intervention for national training systems is the recognition of prior learning (RPL)[8]. RPL is a process by which regulatory bodies and training institutions assess acquired skills, often gained outside of the classroom, against a given set of standards, competencies or learning outcomes. In addition to supporting the portability of skills of PoC workers, RPL systems can promote social inclusion by recognizing work and other learning experiences. They allow for non-traditional pathways to formal employment, which is especially relevant if women or men, either PoC or nationals, acquired their skills through non-formal or informal learning, or if certificates were lost, as is the case for refugees. Moreover, through the identification of potential skill gaps, RPL can offer a pathway into further training and/or apprenticeships.

The recognition of qualifications and skills covers two main areas: academic and professional recognition. Academic recognition allows for the continuation of studies at the appropriate level. Professional recognition provides the opportunity to access a particular job, and practice professional skills that might have been acquired abroad. Professional recognition covers both regulated and non-regulated professions. Skills recognition may be conducted in several ways, usually by measuring skills against agreed labour competency or occupational standards. It is important to note that Skills Recognition Systems should recognize that there are gender dimensions and that measures need to be put into place to ensure equal opportunity and treatment for women and men and that there is no discrimination being perpetuated.

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.

a. At international level the following instruments call for the recognition of PoC ’ 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.”

b. At the continental and sub-regional level:

  • 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.
  • In 2011, the SADC Ministers of Education established the SADCQF as 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.

South Africa has started to implement a digital E-Credentialing system[9] and the SADC E-certificate 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. Six implementation areas have been identified and their coordination allocated to different countries as follows:

  • Governance (TCCA and SADC secretariat)
  • Quality assurance (Botswana)
  • Verification (Eswatini)
  • Recognition of prior learning, credit accumulation, transfer and articulation (Namibia)
  • Advocacy and communication (Zambia); and
  • Alignment of NQFs to SADQCF (South Africa).

c. Mutual recognition agreements

  • A mutual recognition agreement (MRA) is an agreement between two or more countries to consider qualifications issued by one country as being valid in the other(s). In the Eastern African Community (EAC) countries, for example, MRAs exist for three professions (accountants, architects and engineers), and there are plans to extend the agreement to other professions such as veterinary services, land surveyors, pharmacists and advocates. As part of a skills partnership on migration between Ghana, Nigeria and Togo, the three countries have started comparing occupational and training standards in selected occupations relevant for labour migration, in order to arrive at joint minimum standards.[10]

d. Bilateral labour migration agreements

  • Bilateral labour migration agreements (BLMAs) are increasingly used to govern the labour migration process, to protect the rights of migrant workers and to ensure adequate skills and job matching through skills portability and skils recognition Some countries decide to formulate specific bilateral or multilateral skills portability and recognition agreements. .

e. Unilateral measures

Recognition systems at country level still vary widely (e.g. linked to labour competency standards, etc), despite a number of multilateral frameworks for the recognition of qualifications implemented in recent years. Within a single country, different methods may apply for the validation and recognition of, respectively, academic education, vocational education and work experience. Different recognition paths may apply according to the country in which the migrant worker obtained his or her qualifications:

  • Definition of regulated and non-regulated professions, and type of recognition procedures applying in each case: In most countries, there are professions which require authorization from competent authorities in order to be practiced – these are defined as regulated professions. The definition of what constitutes regulated and non-regulated professions differ. Binding recognition procedures generally apply to regulated professions. With respect to non-regulated professions, the recognition of qualifications is not a general requirement. There is a plethora of methods that have been developed for both regulated and non-regulated professions. Systems include regulation by national and/or provincial professional bodies, employer-based recognition processes, coordination by one public authority in charge of regulated professions or automatic recognition. Further stakeholders are universities and colleges, credential assessment organizations and provincial, federal and municipal governments.
  • Methods for assessment and recognition of formal learning: Different methods apply across countries. Some approaches are based on the length of education/training (quantitative), and others on content (qualitative**)**. Concerning the latter, learning outcomes are playing an increasingly important role in the development of national and overarching qualifications systems and frameworks. Where learning outcomes are taken into account for the evaluation of a foreign qualification, the recognition procedure may focus more on results reached and competences obtained, rather than only on input criteria such as the programme workload and content. However, documentation on the qualification does not always contain clear listings of learning outcomes and recognition bodies may have to deduce the output of a qualification from contextual information such as its place in the national education system or qualifications framework, its subject matter content and duration.
  • Partial recognition of formal learning and bridging courses: When full recognition is not granted, forms for alternative, partial or conditional recognition may apply. Alternative recognition can include bridging courses offered by the competent authority to make up for differences with the required qualification. While partial recognition would grant the applicant the possibility to enroll in specific programmes in order to earn missing credits, conditional recognition may allow the applicant to commence the desired activity on the condition that certain goals are successfully met during a specific time period.
  • Development of practices for the recognition of informal and non-formal learning (RPL): The recognition of learning that is either related to daily life activities such as work, family or leisure and of learning that has not been provided by an education or training institution is of particular significance for migrants. In many cases, it is via methods such as biographical interviews that the personal strengths and potentials of PoC can be identified. This is particularly important where possibilities to prove formal qualifications acquired abroad do not exist, or where major discrepancies occur between formal learning in countries of origin and destination. The benefits of validation are closely connected to the individual – a fact recognized by several initiatives.

3. Objectives and Outputs

The objective of the consultancy is to conduct a comparative skills profiling survey and assess skills recognition opportunities facilitating asylum seekers and refugees[11] access to the labour market in South Africa and Zambia. The surveys should be complemented by an analysis of existing Recognition of Prior Learning mechanisms and their reach.

The consultant will also collect information on practical existing recognition and portability mechanisms available to refugees in South Africa and Zambia around the specific region and setting (urban or rural) where refugees are based. The consultant will identify entry points for inclusion of refugees into existing recognition and portability mechanisms and expected challenges, whether policy or institutional.

The report will briefly include background information on the legal environment on refugee and migrant workers access to the labour market well as a comparison of those legal instruments and the skills recognition frameworks in the two countries. Information will be also collected on coping mechanisms where there is no skills recognition available. If possible, the consultant will try to collect information on “cost” of wasted opportunities of not having skills recognition opportunities. How much is it costing refugees and host governments in terms of lost wages?

Work will involve the production of a small sample survey (around 200 refugees per country or 400 in total) to compile and analyse information on skills profiles of refugees in each of the two countries. Information needed includes: qualifications, work experience, skills/knowledge, level of expertise in the skills identified. It should also be clear which skills classification will be used in the survey: ISCO/ESCO/other.

The consultant will specify if the skills profiling surveys are conducted in camp settings or in non-camp settings as well as rural versus urban settings. Ideally, work will concentrate on a province/metro. In the case of South Africa for example, work will preferably cover Western Cape province/Cape Town, or as a 2nd/3rd options Gauteng Province, or Johannesburg and Pretoria. Finally, if possible the consultant could also assess if there are other related barriers to access decent work opportunities.

4. Methodology

The methodology for the assessment, to be developed by the consultant as part of his/her work will include:

  • literature review;
  • Key informant interviews and/or consultations (virtual or face to face) with at least 5 relevant skills recognition stakeholders.
  • Preparation and undertaking of short survey to specific target refugee audience in South Africa and Zambia. They should be comprised of a sample of 200 refugees and asylum seekers per country identified through intermediary representatives of refugee associations/organisations. The sampling should be randomized. Surveys will highlight if they were conducted in camp settings or in non-camp settings as well as if they were conducted in rural versus urban setting, and if they covered refugees or asylum-seekers.
  • Sharing of the survey questions for review and validation before dissemination to key informants.
  • Validation and presentation of findings.

The organisation of key informant interviews and undertaking of refugee surveys will depend on the existing bans/restrictions on travel and physical gatherings. in the two countries.

The consultant will produce a:

  1. A brief inception document (max 10 pages) as well as an outline of the data collection and analysis methods, and workplan. It should annex the two draft surveys/questionnaires mentioned below;

a) Skills profiling and recognition of skills’ survey targeting 200 refugees per country. It should include questions related to information on refugee skills (both formal and informal) education, work experience and availability of, or lack of, skills recognition and documentation opportunities facilitating refugees and asylum seekers’ access to the labour market, level of skills, qualifications and experience of refugees and asylum seekers, experience with employers’ hiring decisions ; etc.;

b) Key informant interviews’ survey targeting at least five skills recognition stakeholders per country;

  1. Report comprising a comparative analysis based on the results of the responses to the two surveys and an analysis of existing Recognition of Prior Learning mechanisms and their reach. The report should be no longer than 80 pages (or 40 pages per country). It will include a 2 paged executive summary of the results and recommendations, including a section on challenges and opportunities for inclusion of refugees in skills recognition systems including recommendations for entry points for the UN (ILO and UNHCR) engagement with the host governments on such discussions including recommendations for relevant policy changes to enhance the portability of skills of refugees and migrant workers and an Annex with the list of persons interviewed and an Annex comprising a brief summary/compilation of the totals obtained per question and per country.
  2. A PPT presentation (including an infographic) on the main results, challenges, opportunities and recommendations of the skills survey and prior learning comparing the two countries.
  3. A summary or fact sheet of key advocacy messages for engaging with governments and development actors on recognizing prior skills and enhancing the portability of skills of refugees and migrant workers.

5. Qualifications and Experience Required

Education: Advanced university degree in Skills, Development Studies, Economics, Migration or Forced Migration studies, Public Policy, Management, or other relevant Social Sciences degree.

Experience: At least 5 years of demonstrated experience on skills recognition for migrants or refugees and/or labour migration governance, conducting assessments, and key informant interviews including demonstrable knowledge of mainstreaming gender and non-discrimination, particularly in SADC countries as well as working with COMESA, IOC. Country level experience in at least some of the SADC countries is an asset.

Languages: Excellent command of English.

6. Terms of Contract for Consultant

The service provider will be responsible for all expected outputs mentioned in the terms of reference.

Daily fees will range between 200 to 450 USD.

Fees will be determined depending on the knowledge and experience by the consultant(s) and in SADC countries on the technical area under study: skills recognition of migrant workers (or refugees) and labour migration governance.

7. Timeline and payment breakdown

The consultant will work for a total of 4 months or 80 working days.

Starting date: date__**

End date: date__**

Total agreed consultant(s)’ fees represent**amount** US dollars based on a daily fee of _**$/day for 70 days.

Payments will be disbursed as follows:

  • 30% of the total or amount US dollars upon the completion of the inception document annexing the skills profiling and recognition of skills’ survey and the Key informant interview survey, no later than date _ to the satisfaction of the ILO and UNHCR.
  • 40% of the total or _amount**US dollars** upon the completion of the draft Report comprising a comparative analysis based on the results of the responses to the two surveys and an analysis of existing Recognition of Prior Learning mechanisms, no later than date __ to the satisfaction of the ILO and UNHCR**.
  • 30% of the total or amount**_** US dollars **upon the completion of the final version of the Report comprising the results of the analysis of the responses to the two surveys, a PPT presentation and a Summary/Fact Sheet, no later than *date _ to the satisfaction of the ILO and UNHCR.**

8. Supervision and Reporting

The service provider will report to Ms. Gloria Moreno-Fontes, Chief Technical Advisor of the Southern Africa Migration Management (SAMM) project, who will coordinate with MIGRANT in HQ and share it broadly with other ILO Departments.

The ILO will liaise with UNHCR and be in charge of the overall supervision for incorporating inputs and comments and validation of the work.

9. Footnotes

[1] UNHCR (2020), Global Trends, Forced Displacement in 2020, p.2.

[2] 85 per cent of whom were hosted in developing countries.

[3] The Syrian Arab Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia– account for over 68 per cent of the total number of refugees, while the top three hosting countries in absolute numbers – Turkey, Pakistan and Uganda accommodate 6.3 million refugees. UNHCR (2018), Global Trends, Forced Displacement in 2017, p.4

[4] ILO: Employment and decent work in refugee and other forced displacement contexts: Compendium of ILO’s lessons learned, emerging good practices and policy guidance, 2020.

[5] UNHCR persons of concern are asylum seekers, refugees, stateless persons, persons at risk of statelessness and Internally displaced persons (IDPs).

[6] Labour market-related term that describes the phenomenon experienced by skilled or highly-skilled workers who enter the labour market and obtain a job below their skills or qualification level (compared to their acquired qualifications) and are considered to be “overqualified” for the job they occupy. This means that workers end up working in lower-skilled jobs, and are often badly paid. If they stay (which is often the case) in that same job, they can never climb the occupational ladder. The longer they stay in that lower-skilled job, the harder it is for these foreign workers to obtain a job in accordance with his/her qualifications, since unused skills might be lost or use value after time – and workers suffer deskilling. The end result is an unfair loss of the time and money that the worker spent in obtaining (eventually unused) qualifications and the waste of funds that his/her family and country spent on human resources.

[7] A term commonly used in migration terminology in relation to other terms such as brain drain and brain gain. It determines the lack or bad utilization of potential foreign human resources available in the labour market. It relates to migrant workers’ skills, qualifications and job experience acquired in the country of origin that are not properly utilised in the labour market of the country of destination. The main causes include the lack of recognition of skills and qualifications and hence underutilization of people’s skills, and/or difficulties to obtain work permits, also driving migrant workers to work in the informal economy and often in jobs below their skills level. This results in a loss-loss situation for workers, countries of origin and countries of destination.

[8] ILO: Microsoft Word – RPLGuide13June2020FINAL (ilo.org)

[9] The ILO/SIFA Skills anticipation project is working with AUDA (NEPAD) to develop a Continental Guidance document to support Member States in implementing a digital E-Credentialing system by studying the process that has already started in South Africa.


[11] For more information, please consult the following: Refugees’ Right to Work and Access to Labor Markets – An Assessment – Country Case Studies (Part 2) | KNOMAD

How to apply

10. Application

Interested candidates are invited to submit their applications by 07 September 2021 to the International Labour Organization (samm-project@ilo.org) and copying: ngoveni@ilo.org. Applicants should include the following documentation:

  • CV/resume;
  • Cover letter;
  • A short note providing a brief overview of how the assignment will be approached and giving an indication of the consultant’s capacity to undertake the assignment;
  • 3 weblinks to latest labour migration articles/ reports or attach 3 writing samples on subjects directly related to the scope of this consultancy;
  • 3 references;
  • A half a page financial proposal indicating the consultant’s daily professional fees in USD and (if necessary) a breakdown of costs.

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