education systems
Israel invests the most in its education system. Source: Shutterstock

Part of staying competitive in a world soon to be taken over by more efficient and capable robots is to be in an environment that nurtures a competitive talent force. And to cultivate, attract and retain this skilled talent pool requires, among other things, investing in home-grown talent.

According to Switzerland’s International Institute for Management Development, this investment should extend well beyond school and university. To assess this in its 2019 IMD World Talent ranking, the business school took a more holistic approach, taking into account a country’s public investment and quality on education, availability of apprenticeship systems, employee training for companies as well as its female labour force development and the state of its health infrastructure.

“Most leading economies emphasise long-term talent development by focusing on investment and development. This emphasis, however, goes beyond purely academic aspects to encompass the effective implementation of apprenticeships and employee training. Such an approach ensures a consistent alignment between talent demand and supply,” said Professor Arturo Bris, Director of the IMD World Competitiveness Center.
“Talent is one of the major drivers of competitiveness in the long run,” he said, explaining that countries need to do more to “generate and attract talent, and to make sure the labour force fits the needs of the economy”.

Asia, long known for its emphasis on rote learning and its brain drain, isn’t the first region most would list as a place known for investing in homegrown talent. But in IMD’s World Talent 2019 ranking, there are Asian giants making great strides on this front, underscoring the region’s growing dominance in university league tables and the rapidly changing demographics of its female population, from homemakers to working professionals.

Here’s a quick look at the five top-performing Asian countries that are actively supporting talent:

1. Israel

This West Asian nation is the best in this sub-region overall and ranks 17th – the highest among all Asian countries – in terms of investment in talent. “Its strengths in this factor are the total
public expenditure on education (fourth) and the percentage of females of total labour force (11th),” notes the report.

2. South Korea

South Korea follows Israel in 19th spot, coming 33rd overall in the ranking, overtaking Japan for the first time. The country improved on all three factors assessed by the ranking. The other two factors are “Appeal” (the extent to which a country attracts local and foreign talent) and “Readiness” (the quality of the skills and competencies that are available in a country).

In this ranking, South Korea showed improvements in government expenditure on education per student and implementation of apprenticeships, to name a few.

3. Hong Kong SAR

Hong Kong, SAR ranks 20th in Investment and Development and leads East Asia in the overall ranking. Its strong performance can be attributed to the female percentage of its labour force and PISA educational assessment outcomes, for both of which the country ranks third worldwide.

4. Taiwan

With a score of 64.95 in the Investment and Development factor, Taiwan comes in at 24th, ahead of countries famed for their education systems such as the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand. Taiwan also recorded some of the largest increases this year, jumping seven places to 20th overall.

5. Singapore

This island state closely follows Taiwan, landing 25th spot in the Investment and Development front. It advanced into the overall Top 10 this year, mainly from its performance in measures of Readiness, including PISA educational assessment (ranking first in the world) and percentage of graduates in sciences (for which it placed second worldwide).

While Singapore is the 5th best country in terms of the Investment and Development of talent, the report noted that it “ranks relatively low in the implementation of apprenticeships and the prioritisation of employee training (28th in both), percentage of female labour force (32nd), and levels of pollution as a measure of Appeal (43rd)”.

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