New research from the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2020 confirms that to succeed in the age of AI, more investment is needed in skills development and lifelong learning. While the emerging markets lag far behind the talent-rich nations, the gap can be bridged with the right set of policies.

The currency of the AI-driven economy is talent. But while it is true that talent is high in demand, it is also short in supply.


This especially rings true for the economies that fail to attract and build their own talented workforces. Combine this with more than half of the population in the developing world lacking basic digital skills, and the gap between the high income and talent-rich nations and the rest of the world is widening.


While there are undeniably many challenges ahead, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is also a great opportunity for countries, cities and companies to leapfrog ahead and become more competitive.


These conclusions drawn by the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2020, launched today at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos, underline that AI should not hinder our global workforce, but be a means to upskill employees and boost the economies in emerging markets and beyond.


Here’s a look at the report in a bit more detail.


The Best Countries For Talent


For the seventh year in a row, Switzerland remains the most competitive country in the world. It excels at lifelong learning and skills development. The top five countries also include the US, Singapore, Sweden and Denmark. Generally speaking, countries with an appetite for innovation and technology have bolstered their rankings strongly. Those already active in areas such as AI or advanced technologies, including fintech and medtech, and which have already made significant investment in these fields have the best platform for boosting their human capital and being competitive.


Talent Champions


When in the late 1990s India became a global offshore base for IT services, very few people could have anticipated the economic benefits that this would bring. And yet, in a short period of time, India became a talent champion of the region, still continuing to improve its capacity to grow its talent pool. In a similar fashion and two decades later, countries such as China and Costa Rica now harbor potential to become AI talent champions and global delivery centres for AI applications.


Smart Cities take the lead as innovation incubators


Cities are a hotbed for creativity and innovation and will be key in accelerating technological advances. Cities tend to be more agile in developing specific AI initiatives. This year, the best performing cities include New York, followed by London, Singapore, San Francisco and Boston. And while many of the top 20 cities are American, there are many examples of cities from less developed countries that are quickly catching up.


Tianjin in China, for instance, is worth the note. It has 16 million inhabitants, which is almost twice the size of Switzerland, and its economy is worth more than $275 billion, the same as Chile and twice that of Hungary. More importantly, however, it has recently announced to invest $15 billion in AI, which is not only six times more than France, but it also proves that cities can lead the AI-driven innovation.


Reskilling workforce will harness AI potential


To stay at the forefront of talent development, all around the world countries and cities need to focus on reskilling their workforces to deal with the new environment. They will have to emphasise the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects and embrace lifelong learning. Vocational training will play a vital role in equipping individuals, and the workforce as a whole, with the right capabilities. Governments will need to reduce barriers to and companies invest into re-skilling and up-skilling of existing workers. Skills development will need to include human-centred skills such as empathy, creativity, imagination and leadership as well as fusion skills that will be essential for the collaboration of humans and AI machines.


In the future, people and technology will combine to create economic prosperity and that end, we need to prepare our workforces for this new reality.


Alain Dehaze, CEO of The Adecco Group


We have entered the era of AI driven economy. Everywhere around us, the world of work is changing. Fast and irreversibly. The hybrid workforce of humans and machines are transforming markets, industries and workplaces, making reskilling of workers more critical than ever.


Undoubtedly, the new human-machine relationship will cause plenty of disruption, because as technologies better, they will replace jobs. It is estimated that by 2030 one in eight employees will have switched to a different role. At the same time, however, these technologies will also unleash the creation of more and more new jobs.


To that end, the AI revolution needs to be accompanied by a re-skilling revolution. They are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. They go hand in hand. Indeed, to reap the full benefits of these changes, we will need to embrace lifelong learning. Countries, cities, and organisations that understand this and have already invested in skills development of their workforce are set to benefit most from the AI-driven economy.


These are the conclusions of the Global Talent Competitiveness Index whose 2020 edition addresses the theme of Global Talent in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. It is a great study that deserves attention from all those who work towards equipping individuals with future skills, enabling them to thrive in the age of AI.


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