INSEAD, the leading international business school, today released the 2014 edition of its annual Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI). The study, which focuses on the topic of ‘growing talent for today and tomorrow’, was produced in collaboration with the Human Capital Leadership Institute of Singapore (HCLI) and Adecco Group. Measuring a nation’s competitiveness based on the quality of talent it can produce, attract and retain, the index placed Switzerland at number one, followed by Singapore and Luxembourg in second and third places, respectively.

2014  Global Talent Competitiveness Index Rankings: Top Ten








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Commenting on this year’s study, Ilian Mihov, Dean of INSEAD, said: “We live in a world where talent has become the core currency of competitiveness - for businesses and national economies alike. Yet there is an all-too-frequent mismatch between education systems and the needs of labour markets. Businesses and governments need new kinds of leaders and entrepreneurs, equipped with the skills that will help their firms and countries to thrive in the global knowledge economy. To help them making the right decisions in an increasingly complex environment, we need the kind of indicators and metrics that GTCI offers.”

As in 2013, GTCI rankings are dominated by European countries, with only six non-European countries in the top 20: Singapore (2), the United States (4), Canada (5), Australia (9), New-Zealand (16) and Japan (20).

GTCI 2014 champions include a significant number of small high-income economies. Bruno Lanvin, Executive Director of Global Indices at INSEAD, and co-author of the report, commented: “It’s really quite striking that among the top three countries – Switzerland, Singapore and Luxembourg – two are landlocked and one is an island. Faced with specific geographical challenges and a quasi-absence of natural resources, these countries have had no choice but to be open economies, a critical ingredient to being talent competitive.” He added that “The top countries on this year’s GTCI have played the game of globalisation and played it well.” Many of the other economies in the ‘top 20’ have strong immigration traditions, including the United States (4), Canada (5), Sweden (6), the United Kingdom (7), and Australia(9). These high performing countries also have long prioritised education, as is the case for the other Scandinavian countries, all in the top 15: Denmark (8), Norway (11), and Finland (13).

Paul Evans, The Shell Chaired Professor of Human Resources and Organisational Development, Emeritus, at INSEAD, and co-editor of the report, noted: “Perhaps one of the most interesting findings this year is the renewed importance of vocational education. It’s not just higher education that is important today – vocational learning needs to be integrated into secondary education. In Switzerland, thinking about becoming employable starts off in schools at an early age. At age 15, over 70 percent of Swiss school children go on to select what’s known as the apprenticeship track, combining practical work experience with traditional theoretical learning.” He added: “Within the current Swiss government, half of the ministers have come out of the vocational stream. For future talent competitiveness, countries have to take vocational education – that is, employability – much more seriously.”

Patrick De Maeseneire, CEO of Adecco Group, also highlighted the importance of work-based training for growing talent: “The talent mismatch is striking: despite 33 million people looking for a job in the US and Europe, more than 8 million positions are left vacant. Meanwhile, youth unemployment of over 50% persists in some European countries. The push for structural reforms is crucial to create jobs in Europe and to boost the economy. Governments and companies like ours should work hand in hand to create an environment where first job experiences, education and apprenticeships better prepare young people for what companies need. ”

Formal education in Asia is progressing by leaps and bounds, fuelled by societal aspirations of the growing middle class. But talent development is more than attending a top-tier university. Kwan Chee Wei, CEO of the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI), commented: “In certain Asian countries, there is a need to see value and worth in both professional and technical vocations. Beyond this, traditional hierarchies and bureaucracy in many Asian corporates, often hold back openness, transparency and empowerment – important levers in accelerating talent growth.”

The twenty top-scoring countries in the GTCI 2014 are all high-income countries. This is hardly surprising, since rich countries tend to have better universities and a greater ability to attract foreign talents through higher quality of life and remuneration, making them more talent competitive. However, beyond this ‘top-level’ correlation of talent competitiveness with wealth, the GTCI study reveals six key factors affecting talent competitiveness across countries of different GDP per capita and development levels:


  1. Openness is key to talent competitiveness: Switzerland, Singapore and Luxembourg all have a high degree of openness to trade, investment, immigration and new ideas, embracing globalisation while leveraging their human resources.

  2. Fiscally stable countries need talent competitiveness for sustainable development: mineral or oil rich countries, or those with context-specific competitive advantage, should foster talent competitiveness to ensure sustainable prosperity.

  3. Talent growth can be internal or external: some countries like the US and in Europe successfully focus on developing talent within their own borders, while others such as China attract foreign talent or send their elites abroad for further education.

  4. Countries must consider employability or risk high unemployment: ‘talent for growth’ means meeting the actual needs of a national economy. Switzerland, Singapore and the Nordic countries customise their education systems towards appropriate levels of ‘employable skills’.

  5. Education systems need to reconsider traditional learning: talent development in the 21st century must go beyond traditional formal education and develop vocational skills.

  6. Technology is changing the meaning of ‘employable skills’: technological changes will affect new segments of the labour market, impacting the 250 million ‘knowledge workers’ globally today.

Commenting on the changing meaning of ‘employable skills’, Bruno Lanvin said: “Technology is radically altering the employment picture. For instance, big data phenomenon is changing a number of key skills required in today’s labour markets. ‘Knowledge workers’ are being significantly affected by the changes that technology is setting in motion - not just in the more sophisticated economies but also in emerging economies with a high proportion of service workers in offshore business processing activities – typically India but also Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.”

GTCI covers national and organisational parameters and generates insights to inspire action. Based on feedback and analysis following the release of GTCI 2013, this year’s index includes 65 variables (up from 45 last year). It covers 93 national economies, across all groups of income and levels of development, and has (1) four pillars on the input side - Enable, Attract, Grow and Retain – focusing on actions for policymakers and business leaders, and (2) two output pillars, benchmarking national performance in Labour/Vocational and Global Knowledge skills, respectively.

For more information on the Global Talent Competitiveness Index and to download the full report, please visit:

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INSEAD became a pioneer of international business education with the graduation of the first MBA class on the Fontainebleau campus in Europe in 1960. In 2000, INSEAD opened its Asia campus in Singapore. And in 2007 the school began an association in the Middle East, officially opening the Abu Dhabi campus in 2010.

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About the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI)

The Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI) is an aggregator and neutral player in the human capital ecosystem. HCLI offers the unique ability to bring together multiple perspectives and voices from business, government and academia, offering thought leadership and insights on understanding Asia, successfully doing business in Asia and its implications on leadership and human capital strategies for Asia. Through its efforts, the Institute aims to develop global leaders with a strong understanding of leading in Asia, as well as to build Asian leaders with the ability to lead on the global stage.

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