April 18, 2017 11:18 pm JST

Singapore grabs No. 2 spot in global business talent ranking

Its open economy and focus on tech are attracting high achievers

TOMOMI KIKUCHI, Nikkei staff writer

SINGAPORE -- When it comes to attracting and keeping the world's best business talent, Singapore is second only to Switzerland, according to the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2017 report released by the French business school INSEAD.

For the annual report, which measures the ability of countries to compete for talent, INSEAD worked with Zurich-based human resources company Adecco Group and Human Capital Leadership Institute, an alliance of various Singaporean government agencies, to conduct assessments across 118 economies.

Scores were given to each economy based on the actions of policymakers and business leaders, and then used to assess the economies' capacity to attract, grow and retain talent. The scores were also used to assess the technical skills and knowledge of the countries' talent pools.

Singapore was the only Asian country ranked in the top 10, which was dominated by European countries. "Singapore has always been an open economy that harnesses diversity," said INSEAD emeritus professor Paul Evans, the academic director and co-editor of the index, in a telephone interview with Nikkei.

Evans said the high quality of life and availability of good schools for kids helps Singapore attract business leaders for multinational corporations with regional headquarters there. The shift in Singapore's education policy to focus more on technology also contributes to development of talent, he said.

Singapore was among several small high-income countries that placed high in the ranking. That group includes top-ranked Switzerland and No. 7 Luxembourg. The report noted that the specific challenges of small economies, such as the scarcity of raw materials, may have prompted them to develop "socioeconomic policies in which talent growth and management are central priorities."

China and India "need to further boost their regulatory and market landscapes," said Bruno Lanvin, INSEAD's executive director for global indices, in a press release. He said that a city-level assessment would paint a different picture, citing the competitiveness of Shanghai and Mumbai.

Among other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Australia moved up in the ranking from last year's 13th to 6th, boosted by its openness in attracting global talent. Japan moved down three notches to 22nd, mainly due to a "closed" economy that is slow to adopt highly skilled foreign workers, according to Evans.

South Korea jumped from 37th to 29th, thanks to a growing English-speaking population and the fact that investments in education have "started to pay off." Malaysia, which came in at 28th, topped the group of upper-middle-income countries, thanks to the high level of vocational and technical skills among its workers.

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