A Call for Consultancy – Review of methodologies and tools used for the development of critical skills list in Southern Africa (Re-Advertisement)

International Labour Organization

Terms of Reference

Review of methodologies and tools used for the development of critical skills list in Southern Africa

(Individual Consultant)

  1. Background

The Southern Africa Migration Management(SAMM) project is a model of a ONE-UN approach collaborative effort between 4 UN development and humanitarian agencies: 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, including through alignment of qualifications with existing Regional Qualifications Frameworks and/or the implementation of other recognition mechanisms.

Activity Assess the capacities of national administrations, RECs secretariats and skills systems to facilitate the recognition and verification of migrant workers’ skills and qualifications at various levels.

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

The low capacity of national recognition bodies and processes in both sending and receiving countries has been one of the major barriers of skills portability and recognition of migrant workers’ skills. Migrant workers are over-represented in jobs and tasks that require fewer and lower level skills, are lower paid and offer restricted career prospects. Migrant workers, especially women migrant workers, are often subjected to “deskilling[1]” and “brain waste[2]”, through the migration corridors.

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

  1. employable skills which can be used productively in different jobs, occupations, industries; and;
  2. certification and recognition of skills within national and international labour markets.

In order to gain access to employment, migrant workers not only need to possess relevant skills, but also need to be able to signal and validate these skills to potential employers. Thus, workers 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 workers, 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 workers make full use of their talents and skills. In international migration 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 migrants and tend to create an uneven playing field for migrant workers or refugees. 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). 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 migrant 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 migrants or nationals, acquired their skills through non-formal or informal learning, or if certificates were lost. 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.

Another important dimension to be considered to facilitate the portability of skills for migrant workers is related to the countries capacity to ensure that skills respond to labour market needs and that migration is demand oriented. This dimension relates to the design and implementation of sound labour market information systems, including accurate labour market needs assessment and skills anticipation that inform migration policies.

Skills matching and anticipation is a complex task, and it depends on each country’s socio-economic conditions, institutions, capacities and governance systems. Many developing countries have limited labour market information, considered the backbone of any education and employment strategy, and more effort and investment are needed to build robust information systems. At the same time, even limited evidence can be better, and more efficiently used, with proper methodological tools and analyses.

Critical skills lists, as well as lists of occupations in high demand, are skills needs assessment and anticipation tools that, if adequately developed and effectively used, can support countries in their efforts of better managing labour migration flows and integrating skills of migrant workers through demand- and industry-driven processes.

  1. Objectives and Outputs

The overarching objective of this consultancy is to contribute to build knowledge and capacities in SADC countries to facilitate skills portability and better matching with labour market needs. More specifically, the consultancy has two main objectives:

  1. To carry out an independent evaluation of the methodology used in South Africa (as informed by the Department of Higher Education and Training – DHET) to produce critical skills lists and lists of occupations in high demand, against international standards and taking into consideration the SADC skills and labour migration context.
  2. To develop specific recommendations and a methodological guidance note on how to produce critical skills lists that facilitate skills portability and better labour migration management in the SADC region.

The expected outputs are:

  1. An inception report, providing a workplan detailing the methodology to be used and approach to the assignment based on the TOR and Annex.
  2. An evaluation report (inclusive of recommendations) of the South Africa critical skills list methodology, addressing the specific questions indicated in Annex 1, and including a brief review of other countries approaches, as well as other related skills needs assessment / anticipation reports used by the DHET that, if improved, could enhance the accuracy and relevance of the critical skills list (e.g., list of occupations in high demand, among others to be identified).
  3. A methodological guidance note that provides recommendations to SADC countries’ departments of labour, education, home affairs, statistics offices, and social partners on how to develop critical skills lists that contribute to facilitate skills portability and better labour migration management in the SADC region (e.g. which economic sectors, occupations and what skill levels -highly-skilled, semi-skilled, low skilled- to include, among other methodological aspects), taking the more limited information base in most SADC countries into account (in comparison with South Africa).
  4. Methodology

The methodology for the assignment, to be developed by the consultant as part of his/her inception report and will include:

  • desk review (covering existing critical skills lists and list of occupations in high demand in South Africa, as well as in a few selected countries: UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, USA, Singapore and in SADC countries that have developed similar tools).
  • comparative analysis based on desk review (facilitating the identification of trends and approaches, and the analysis of pros and cons).
  • key informant (expert) interviews and/or consultations (virtual or face-to-face) with relevant stakeholders (this will happen throughout the consultancy period with the objective of gathering essential information and filling gaps from desk review).
  • participation in stakeholders’ dialogues (at least 2, virtual or face-to-face) to present the findings and discuss options. Dialogues will be facilitated by the Nedlac secretariat in South Africa and by the ILO together with the SADC secretariat for the region.
  • technical online meetings with the ILO Offices (Decent Work Team in Pretoria and SKILLS Branch in HQs) and with the DHET in South Africa.

Critical aspects to be considered in carrying out the evaluation and prepare recommendations include, among others:

  • Review of methodological approaches and tools should cover an evaluation of the process behind their use, with particular attention to broad stakeholder consultations and participation of industry representatives.
  • Other important aspects include how critical skill lists are used to inform skills development and labour migration policies, for example in terms of formal linkages between institutions.
  • Critical skills lists are often biased towards workers and professionals who have qualifications and are not inclusive enough of those travelling with skills but not qualifications. Furthermore, critical skills lists are often biased towards high-end of skills and highly qualified workers and are not inclusive enough towards low to medium skilled workforce in demand from industry. Recommendations should therefore aim at inclusivity of all levels of skills and qualifications and consider the role played by inclusive recognition tools, such as recognition of prior learning.
  • Frequency by which these lists are produced plays a crucial role in ensuring country competitiveness and a better matching between labour skills and demand. Yet the process of elaborating and producing critical skills list is both costly and time-consuming. Recommendations should explore how the use of real time data / big data can enhance the quality and timeliness of these skills needs assessment / anticipation tools.
  • Research in this field seems to be somehow limited, hence recommendations should include innovative ideas on how to sustain research that can inform policy dialogues on the use of skills needs anticipation tool in the context of labour migration management.

These dimensions, among other elements to be determined during the inception phase, form an essential part of the analysis.

  1. Qualifications and Experience Required
  • Education: Advanced university degree in Skills, Development Studies, Economics, Migration studies, Public Policy, Management, or other relevant Social Sciences degree.
  • Experience: At least 10 years of demonstrated research experience in the areas of employment, skills and/or labour migration governance, including demonstrable knowledge of mainstreaming gender and non-discrimination. Advanced knowledge of at least 3 countries critical skills lists or skills needs anticipation approaches, among the ones indicated in these TORs is essential. Country level experience in at least some of the SADC countries is an asset.
  • Languages: Excellent command of English. Working knowledge of French and/or Portuguese is an advantage.
  1. Terms of Contract for Consultant

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

Fees will be determined depending on the knowledge and experience offered by the consultant on the technical area under study.

Recommended number of working days should be in the range of 40 (minimum) to 60 (maximum) in the established period (September to December 2023).

Most of the work should be carried out online (including most of the interviews and interactions with stakeholders). 2 missions to South Africa should be included as a separate item in the budget breakdown, and their feasibility will be assessed depending on the overall methodology proposed.

  1. Timeline and payment breakdown

The consultancy is expected to cover a period of 4 working months, between 1 September and 31 December 2023.

Starting date: 1 September 2023

End date: 31 December 2023

Payments will be disbursed as follows:

  • 30% of the total US dollars upon the completion of the inception report to the satisfaction of the ILO.
  • 30% of the total US dollars upon the completion of the first draft of both reports to the satisfaction of the ILO.
  • 40% of the total US dollars upon the completion of the final version of both reports to the satisfaction of the ILO.
  1. Supervision and Reporting

The consultant 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 consultant will work in close collaboration with:

  • Ms Alice Vozza, Skills and Lifelong Learning Specialist, DWT CO-Pretoria
  • Mr Theodoor Sparreboom, Labour Migration Specialist, DWT CO-Pretoria

The ILO will liaise with the DHET and Nedlac in South Africa (in coordination with the ILO Office in Pretoria) and with other technical specialists in ILO HQs and in SAMM partner agencies.



To inform the development of South Africa’s next list of critical skills.


South Africa’s Critical Skills List has significant implications for the country’s economic and human capital development. It is a high stakes list because it is used to support the implementation of South Africa’s visa regime. It is therefore important to ensure that the list is valid and credible, and that it, as far as is possible, accurately reflects occupational shortages in the South African labour market. As such, it is important to reflect on the methodology that was used to compile the 2022 Critical Skills List, assess its strengths and weaknesses and adopt ideas for the development of future iterations of the Critical Skills List. We are also of the view that the methodology should be evaluated to ensure that it is inclusive and representative of the diverse needs and perspectives of different stakeholders, including employers, workers, educators, and policymakers. Moreover, the Department believes that this project will ensure that the methodology it uses to identify Critical Skills is consistent with international best practices and standards for identifying critical skills and labour market needs.


It is proposed that the evaluation should focus on the latest technical report on Critical Skills List published in 2022 and on the latest gazette in which the Critical Skills List was published by the Department of Home Affairs. It is also proposed that the evaluation be undertaken within the framework of applicable legislation gazetted by the Minister of Home Affairs. More specifically, any dimensions, criteria or factors that may be used in the revised methodology must be in compliance with the provisions of the Immigration Act No. 13 of 2002 and the Immigration Regulations. Sub-questions listed below should therefore address the legislative requirements as dictated by the Immigration Act.


Is the methodology used to identify critical skills and compile the 2022 South African Critical Skills List valid and credible?


  1. Does the methodology that was used to compile the 2022 South African Critical Skills List reflect all possible variables, dimensions and measures in terms of available data (e.g. economic sector, occupational level, skill level (highly-skilled, semi-skilled and low-skilled)? Is it encompassing in its formulation all World of Work actors (Department of Labor, Employers and Workers’ most representative organizations?) If not, what additional/amended variables, dimensions and measures could be adopted for future iterations of the Critical Skills List according to STATS SA and other National Statistics Agencies (e.g. Botswana, Namibia, Seychelles, Mauritius, etc)?
  2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the methodology used to identify Critical Skills (2022)?
  3. How can the methodology used to identify Critical Skills (2022), be improved upon (if applicable)?
  4. To what extent is the data used in the compilation of the Critical Skills List valid and credible in terms of labour market needs (labour demand and supply)? More specifically:

(a) To what extent is the data from Career Junction reflective of vacancies in the country? What other data sources can complement this data?

  1. To what extent is the ESSA database reflective of labour shortages and unemployment in the country?
  2. How is the ESSA database updated and to what extent does it reflect the status quo?
  3. How often should the South African Critical Skills List be updated? Please explain your response.
  4. Is the information provided in the Critical Skills List adequate and appropriate (e.g., OFO, NQF level)? if not how can this be improved upon?
  5. The Presidency report on the review of the visa regime (2023) points out that work experience is not considered as a criterion in the application of the Critical Skills List. How should the requirements for work experience be dealt with for the Critical Skills Visa?
  6. What challenges do stakeholders, namely Home Affairs, Department of Labor, Private Sector, Employer organisations, Professional Bodies, Workers organisations and employees themselves experience in the implementation of the Critical Skills List, especially in terms of labour market needs and how these link to the methodology used to compile the Critical Skills List? How can these challenges be best addressed?
  7. How can critical skills lists be linked to other labour migration tools such as (economic sector, occupation) quotas and labour market tests or vacancy tests?


In light of the need to use the findings from this study for the development of the next report on Critical Skills List, it is proposed that a “rapid evaluation” approach be used for this study. As a result, it is proposed that this study should be largely of a desk-top nature, peppered with interviews with key stakeholders (either in groups, or telephonically). The Department of Home Affairs (with support from the Department of Higher Education and Training) will assist in facilitating group interviews (e.g., with Business and other stakeholders, where feasible). Existing meetings should be used where possible to maximise efficiencies.


  1. DHET
  2. DHA
  3. DEL
  4. DTIC
  5. Presidency
  6. SAQA


  1. DHA Gazette of Critical Skills List?
  2. DHA legislation
  3. Finalisation of the Critical Skills List technical report (2022)
  4. A Technical Report for the 2020 Critical skills List (2020)
  5. Reports of stakeholder engagements (call for evidence and other meetings)

Conceptual Framework for the 2020 National List of Occupations in High Demand, List of Priority Occupations, and Critic

[1] 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 in that same job (which is often the case), 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.

[2] 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.

How to apply

  1. Application

Interested candidates are invited to submit their applications by midnight 20 August 2023 South African Standard Time (GMT+2) to the International Labour Organization’s SAMM project email address ([email protected]).

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 relevant 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.

Applicants who previously applied do not need to re-submit, their applications will be considered.