When it comes to a country’s ability to attract, nurture, and retain people with the necessary skills and talent to meet increasing technological changes and challenges it is hard to overlook the city-state of Singapore. For the second year in a row Singapore sits at the top of world rankings as a magnet for attracting skilled people, less than half a percentage point below Switzerland in first place, and 26 places ahead of Malaysia, the nearest other Asean country in the list. From there it is a long way down to the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Cambodia.
The results are contained in the fourth annual Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) prepared by INSEAD, one of the world’s leading and largest graduate business schools, in collaboration with international recruitment and employment giant ADECCO Group, and the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI), Singapore.
The annual GTCI ranking takes into account the levels of vocational and technical skills across six main pillars – Enable, Attract, Grow, Retain, Vocational and Technical Skills, and Global Knowledge Skills – with various sub-pillars forming their sum.
Globally Singapore was number one in enabling talent, attracting talent, and global knowledge skills, seventh in retaining talent, and eighth in vocational and technical skills. However, for growing talent it was placed thirteenth.
Two dimensions in which Singapore has room for improvement, according to the report, are Access to Growth Opportunities, and the Innovation output sub-pillar.
According to the report Singapore’s talent competitiveness is aided by high standard academic and vocational training programs that are being copied all over the world.
The accumulation of talent has seen Singapore become a producer of high-value products and services and one of the reasons for its strong economic growth. In 2016 it was placed in the top ten richest countries in the world.
While Singapore’s status as Asean’s business hub is credited with attracting and retaining talent, it is also experiencing a brain drain. Substantial numbers of Singaporeans live and work abroad, lured by the slower pace of life and more conducive and supportive work environments, with China, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States being particularly popular,
Malaysia, Philippines talent rankings improve
For the Asean region Malaysia and the Philippines were placed second and third respectively, with the former climbing two places on a year prior, from 30th to 28th place, while the latter climbed four rungs to rank 56th in 2016.
Ranked number one in the group of upper-middle-income countries, its global ranking places Malaysia above many high-income countries, including South Korea (29th), Portugal (31st), and Spain (35th).
Malaysia scored particularly well in the Enable pillar (22nd) and in the Vocational and Technical Skills pillar (16th). According to the report, its poor ranking in the Attract pillar (35th) is largely due to poor performance in Internal Openness (62nd) – with ample room for improvement in terms of Tolerance of minorities. In its ability to Retain talent Malaysia ranked 39th, and 41st in providing General Knowledge Skills.
The Philippines also moved up in rankings, gaining four notches to become 52nd globally in the talent competitiveness stakes. The top-ranked in the lower-middle-income country bracket, the Philippines out-ranked several upper-middle-income countries such as China (54th) and the Russian Federation (56th), and even above some high-income countries such as Kuwait (57th) and Oman (59th).
The Philippines performed best in providing vocational and technical skills and general knowledge skills where it ranked 43rd and 40th, respectively. It ranked 59th in enabling talent, 62nd in attracting talent, 65th in growing talent, and 66th in retaining talent.
Despite a large pool of highly-skilled and educated people, partly due to a good vocational training program run by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Philippines has suffered economically because of brain drain. More than two million of its citizens were working overseas in 2016, attracted by higher salaries and better opportunities offered away from home.
Thailand, Vietnam less talent competitive
For the two Asean member countries who fell in the 2017 GTCI, Thailand and Vietnam, the failure to provide high quality vocational and technical skills was their undoing; Thailand ranked a lowly 100, while Vietnam scored a similarly low 98 globally.
While Thailand did well in growing talent and enabling talent, placed 43rd and 55th, respectively, it ranked 66th in attracting talent, 71st in providing global knowledge skills, and 79th in retaining talent to finish at 73rd place, four places down from a year earlier. Likewise, Vietnam slid four notches, from 82nd to 86th.
Like Filipinos, many Thais have been lured abroad by better pay and opportunities. There are more than 100,000 Thais working in other countries, while prejudices and disincentives to vocational study has lead to a skilled labour shortage in Thailand (See: Vocational Study Disincentives Behind Thailand’s Skilled Labour Shortage).
While Vietnam scored a modest 56th globally for imparting global knowledge skills, it performed poorly for enabling talent (83rd), 96th in attracting talent, 88th in growing talent, 87th in retaining talent, and 98th in providing vocational and technical skills.
Also subject to a brain drain with more than 500,000 Vietnamese working overseas, most in Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, and Taiwan, a report in State-owned Vietnam News claims that 70 per cent of Vietnamese students studying abroad in 2011 did not return after graduation.
Going nowhere over the past 12 months is the regions largest economy, Indonesia, which ranked 90th globally for the second year in a row. Ranked 65th in providing vocational and technical skills, 84th in enabling talent, 87th in growing talent, 91st in providing global knowledge skills, 93rd in retaining talent, it scored an unimpressive 105 for attracting talent.
At the bottom end of the talent attractiveness scale is Cambodia which, despite attracting large amounts of foreign investment, scored a lowly 108, 12 places below its ranking of 96th globally in 2015. Scoring a dismal 90 for enabling talent, its all down hill from there.
For growing talent Cambodia scored a measly 96th, 100th for retaining talent, 108 in attracting talent, 113 in providing global knowledge skills, and 114 in the provision of quality vocational technical skills. This has resulted in a skilled labour shortage, with many entrepreneurs and foreign investors complaining that their staff, university graduates and vocational-training graduates alike, lack the skills needed to perform their tasks.
Though Cambodia is trying to ramp up its output of skilled workers with the help of entities such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) (See: ADB Loan To Boost Cambodia’s Skilled Labour, Further Education Reforms), results from investments in education do not materialise overnight.
Also aiming to fill the skilled worker shortage is Vietnam and Indonesia. In a report in the Jakarta Globe Indonesia’s Education Ministry said it will prioritise improving vocational skills starting this year, including reforming the vocational training curriculum, as ordered by President Joko Widodo.
Earlier, Indonesia announced plans to establish ten vocational schools to produce skilled manpower to fill vacancies in the maritime, shipping, electronics, manufacturing, and agriculture sectors.
In Vietnam efforts to improve vocational training will be done in collaboration with outside partners, particularly the Japanese. A recently signed labour agreement will see highly skilled and talented Vietnamese sent to intern in Japan.
Feature video uploaded to Youtube by AdeccoGroup