- Commonwealth factor
- Migration and brain drain
- Commonwealth initiatives
- financial qualifications such as those in accountancy, auditing and actuarial science
- legal qualifications including advocates, barristers, solicitors and attorneys
- key-stage qualifications in education such as A ‘levels, O ‘levels and GCSEs
- health profession qualifications in midwifery, nursing, medicine and pharmacy
- more recently, technological qualifications which tend to be more generally global in nature but, when linked with strong English skills, adopt a Commonwealth dimension.
The Commonwealth factor in human resources
The human resource advantage of the Commonwealth lies mainly in its language and common international standards adopted by virtue of its history.
English is the language of the Commonwealth and a national official language in 44 of the 53 Commonwealth countries. Even in countries where it’s not an official language like Cyprus and Malaysia, it is widely spoken. With its successful global-orientated information technology and call centre industries which employ millions, India is the perfect example of how speaking the language can be a vital human resource.
Commonwealth countries have maintained common standards in a variety of professional fields. To an extent, education and training routes and qualifications in a number of professions are standardised and transferrable with cross-recognition among Commonwealth countries. This includes:
In areas such as the financial field qualification standards in Commonwealth countries have often originated from internationally-oriented professional bodies such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) or the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFA) both based in the United Kingdom. Indeed ACCA and IFA began their international operations within the Commonwealth. In instances where countries have chosen to establish local versions of such international bodies they often emulate international bodies in terms of qualification standards, codes of practice and governance. Partnerships between an international body such as ACCA and local bodies are increasingly commonplace where there are joint examination schemes, collaborations on continuing professional development (CPD), technical research and global quality assurance. Nonetheless, even with the establishment of such local bodies some budding professionals pursue the more international (often UK) route exclusively because of its wide acceptance in the Commonwealth and globally.
Economic migration and brain drain within the Commonwealth
Finding employment in other Commonwealth countries often poses more challenges than it may have done in the early years of the association when immigration laws tended to have a Commonwealth bias.
More developed countries, which naturally attract the most people, have moved to tighten their immigration rules and only allow the most talented and brightest professionals and academics from other Commonwealth countries. Still, some developed countries have gazetted occupations where there is a shortage of skills; such occupations face the least restrictions in terms of immigration. Most skills shortage lists feature specialised fields within the science, engineering, medical and education sectors.
Many developing member states have high unemployment even among highly qualified personnel; chances are the private sector is virtually closed to immigrants. In some sections of the private sector, however, there is more openness. In fields that attract foreign direct investment and transnational enterprise, immigration rules are often amenable to foreign personnel. Many small developing states within the Commonwealth are open to foreign participation in public sector fields such as health, education and law and order where expertise is needed. The Commonwealth Secretariat on occasion advertises jobs internationally in such areas on behalf of host governments and public institutions.
Too often, after investing in education systems, educating and training citizens, developing member states are losing their brightest talents to the more-developed world. Indeed, not to be begrudged, most talented professionals move to developed countries for better income and living conditions. The phenomenon commonly known as ‘brain drain’ is one of the most serious challenges affecting social and economic development in developing countries. Brain drain has potentially serious consequences for critical sectors such as education, health, technology and engineering. In the Commonwealth, Guyana, Swaziland and Lesotho are the most likely to lose their best talents to other countries. Singapore and the United Kingdom are the most likely countries to retain and attract talented people in the Commonwealth; both countries are ranked second and fourth respectively worldwide on these abilites*.
World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2010-11
The Ramphal Commission on Migration and Development is the most significant Commonwealth initiative taking place in the area of economic migration today. The initiative administered by the Ramphal Centre, seeks primarily to maximise the developmental benefits of migration and put the Commonwealth at the centre of a new awareness of the circulation of people, primarily for economic purposes, in the era of globalisation. The centre is eponymously named and dedicated to honour the contribution to the Commonwealth of Shridath (Sonny) Ramphal, former Commonwealth Secretary General.