Saturday, July 13, 2024
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LABOR MIGRATION HARMONIZATION

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As Ethiopia takes over the Chairmanship of the Ministerial Forum on Harmonizing Labor Migration Policies in East and Horn of Africa from Kenya, Capital reached out to the Ethiopian Labor and Skills Minister Muferihat Kamil for an inside view on ways of enhancing governance of labor migration in the region as well as what to expect in Ethiopia’s tenure as chair of the forum. Excerpts;

Capital: What does the Regional Ministerial Forum on Migration for East and Horn of Africa do?
Muferihat Kamil: Two years ago, 11 countries from the horn of Africa established the ‘Ministerial Forum on Migration for East and Horn of Africa’ in Nairobi, Kenya in January 2020 with the solid aim to protect people or migrants flowing from this region to the other parts of the world. Moreover the forum was formed to harmonize labor migration policies in east and horn of Africa as well as to Participating states agreed to collaborate to strengthen labor migration governance in the east and horn of Africa region by establishing a platform for experience sharing, consultation on issues, dialogue, and the review and implementation of recommendations. The forum has since then promoted regional common approaches and social dialogues in the formulation and implementation of evidence-based, human rights and gender-sensitive harmonized labor migration policies.
For the last two and half years, Kenya was leading the forum and now Ethiopia has been selected and will lead the forum for the next two years. We have already started discussions on what has been done for the past two years, and we have also looked ahead on what ought to be done in future. In doing so, we have been identifying sensitive issues that need necessary solutions. Moreover, we have looked into avenues where Ethiopia can play a role to improve the lives of migrants, protect their rights as well as aid in the strengthening of their working capacity based on the demand of the migrants from these member countries.

Capital: With Ethiopia being selected to chair the forum, how is the country set to benefit from the selection?
Muferihat Kamil: Ethiopia as a nation is working to improve and create skilled and semi-skilled labor. We are working to solve challenges in the sector by engaging with different stake holders regional and inter regional organization as well as assessing experiences of countries to change the sector. Thus being given this chair position presents us with an array of benefits. We will be able to effectively solve challenges and strengthen our capacity through the experience that we are able to draw from the various countries. Moreover, we will benefit greatly in laying solid foundations for partnerships and coordination between governments thus we will play a crucial role in bilateral and regional efforts to tackle issues of mutual interests.

Capital: How has Ethiopia’s participation been like for the last two years in the forum?
Muferihat Kamil: Ethiopia has been participating in the forum actively since its establishment. However, the past few years owing to the effect of the pandemic, our normal plans were derailed in terms of planned activities. Nonetheless, as a country within the forum we worked on major key issues despite the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Capital: What benefit does the forum present with regards to improving the issue related to labor migration in the region?
Muferihat Kamil: The forum promotes regional common approaches and social dialogue in the formulation and implementation of evidence-based, human rights and gender-sensitive harmonized labor migration policies. It thus supports member states and regional economic communities to develop, adopt and implement bilateral and multilateral labor migration agreements.
Within the region it also promotes for a common African policy response to implement existing legal and policy frameworks. It achieves this through formulating new policy responses where protection gaps have been identified and further involves multilateral stakeholders and development partners to protect the human, social, economic and labor rights of African migrant workers in countries of origin, transit and countries of destination.
Another upside of the forum is that it establishes or reinforces existing labor market information systems within Africa to identify labor market needs for migrant workers and in doing so strengthens the capacity of labor market institutions on labor migration.
Furthermore, the forum serves as a platform to push governments to support the overall strengthening of social security and welfare institutions in member states in order to extend social security to migrant workers, promoting in particular the mainstreaming of gender and disability issues, induced mental health and psychosocial issues through access and portability regimes compatible with international standards and good practice.

Capital: What effort is the government of Ethiopia doing with regards to oversees labor migration?
Muferihat Kamil: Ethiopians who are interested in overseas employment has shown a steady growth, and this increasing labor migration has been mostly to the Middle East and Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
Due to unemployment and labor surplus in the country as well as the interest of the youth to work abroad, the Ethiopian government is making an effort to diversify sectors and countries for Ethiopian migrant workers, including skilled and semi-skilled workers as building a labor force with stronger skills will open up more opportunities for potential migrants wanting to work oversees.
Thus the government has continually identified key initiatives to determine the skill profiles, gaps and surpluses. Moreover it has keenly looked into skills development initiatives that can be framed and improved to better meet labor market demand and economic opportunity in Ethiopia and key destination countries.
Accordingly, the more skilled (semi and highly skilled) Ethiopian migrant workers, the more opportunity and competitive they will become, and get jobs in diversified sectors and occupation. Additionally, diversification of potential market on one hand, and improving the employability of Ethiopian workers through enhancing technical and vocational skills on the other will have a positive outcome not just for fostering regular migration, but also to enhance access to decent employment whilst sustaining the demand and supply of the Ethiopian labor market.
Overall, when we have a great labor migration we stand to benefit the most as this will automatically lead to increase in remittance which goes a long way in supporting the economy.

Capital: Are there any identified areas that need improvement in the future?
Muferihat kamil: We are continuously trying to improve labor migration governance so as to protect migrant workers and combat irregular migration.
Moreover, identifying skills gaps and surpluses locally, with a view to making policy recommendations to avoid migration-induced skills shortages are part of the improvement plans since it is mandatory for the oversee labor demand market.
We also want to better examine evolving labor-market dynamics in order to best provide projections of the demand for low-, medium-skilled and skilled migrant workers in selected major labor-receiving countries by sector and qualification level, taking into consideration changes in priority sectors, in the destination countries.
In Ethiopia annually 1.5 million people participate in short trainings and around 500,000 people are trained in TVETs. And to this end, we can improve in areas that fall under modernizing institutions, and developing capacity of teachers.

Capital: Since the ministerial office is relatively new, how has your activities been like for the last six months?
Muferihat Kamil: For the last six month we have been conducting our day to day activities as well as organizing our office. We have also looked into various assessments and areas that we need to put more emphasis on. For example there are certain issues which need to be reformed such as oversees labor migration which need to be technology based in order to gain accuracy and efficiency.

Capital: How are you organizing information to know the number of Ethiopian working force overseas?
Muferihat Kamil: Currently, we are preparing information regarding labor for both Ethiopians working oversees and foreigners working in Ethiopia through a system called ‘Labor Market Information System’ /LMIS/. This system will help us to know how many people are working oversees, in addition to further information such as their destination and their respective jobs which will help greatly in organizing our data.

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