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Tackling Brain Waste: Strategies to Improve the Recognition of Immigrants’ Foreign Qualifications
July 2013

Tackling Brain Waste: Strategies to Improve the Recognition of Immigrants’ Foreign Qualifications

Regulated occupations make up a minority of jobs in the labor market but they pose some particularly stubborn obstacles to foreign professionals, particularly in the health sector and for the self-employed. There are a number of reasons why barriers to practicing the profession in which foreign workers are trained can arise, among them differences in education and training, language proficiency or employer resistance to hiring a candidate with unfamiliar qualifications.

This report examines the range of policies immigrant-receiving countries have introduced to improve the recognition of foreign credentials, and focuses on strategies to remedy the credentialing gaps that keep many immigrants from fulfilling their professional potential. 

Several of these policies focus on providing information — both to help employers understand the nature and content of foreign qualifications, and to help immigrants navigate the system and understand their options. In many countries there is still scope for improving these services. However, a lack of information is not the only reason that employers and regulators tendency to discount the value of foreign training. Foreign professionals, especially the newly arrived, are often not completely interchangeable with their locally trained counterparts. As a result, effectively demonstrating that their training meets local standards may not be enough; they may also require opportunities to fill knowledge deficits without prohibitive time and expense.

A range of public and nonprofit programs has emerged to provide this support. However, such programs — some providing valuable, individualized assistance — are often expensive and serve relatively small numbers. Experimentation with more innovative approaches to reducing costs of provision and participation is warranted; potential examples include the development of online training options, and low-cost student loans for immigrants funding their own retraining.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. What Does “Recognition” Mean?

III. How Are Foreign Credentials Currently Assessed?

IV. Cooperative Policies and Mutual Recognition Agreements

V. What Can Governments Do?

VI. Conclusions