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The Global Economy is Failing 35% of the World’s Talent

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Rich and poor countries alike are missing huge opportunities when it comes to making the most of their populations’ economic potential, with only 65% on average of the world’s talent being optimized during all stages of the working life time, according to the World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Report 2016.

The purpose of the report is to help countries assess the outcomes of past and present policies and investments in education and skills and provide guidance on how to prepare the workforce for the future demands of the global economy. In addition to measuring the 130 countries that comprise the Report’s Human Capital Index, it also analyzes a mix of public and private data from online platforms such as Care.com, LinkedIn, Uber and Upwork to generate insights on skills gaps and the potential of the online gig economy.

“Today’s transition to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, combined with a crisis of governance, creates an urgent need for the world’s educators and employers to fundamentally rethink human capital through dialogue and partnerships. The adaptation of educational institutions, labour market policy and workplaces are crucial to growth, equality and social stability,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

The Human Capital Index 2016

Across the Index, a total of 19 nations that have tapped 80% of their human capital potential or more. In addition to these 19 countries, 40 countries score between 70% and 80%. A further 38 countries score between 60% and 70%, while 28 countries score between 50% and 60%. Five countries in the Index remain below 50% in 2016.

At the top, Norway (2) and Switzerland (3) are nearly tied and gaining ground on Finland’s top position. All three are effectively utilizing about 85% of their full human capital potential. Japan (4) rises one rank in this year’s Index, with greater potential to be tapped by closing the gender gap. New Zealand (6), the other country in the top 10 from the East Asia and the Pacific region, rises three ranks since last year. Sweden (5) also rises one rank in this year’s Index, slightly outperforming its neighbour Denmark (7). The Netherlands (8) and Belgium (10) maintain their respective rankings while Canada (9) drops five ranks since last year.

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Taking a regional perspective, on average only one region—North America—passes the 80% threshold, even though the United States (24) lags its northern neighbour by a considerable margin. Two regions—Western Europe and Eastern Europe and Central Asia—score in the 70% to 80% range and three others—East Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and the Middle East and North Africa—in the 60% to 70% range. Two regions—South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa—have not yet crossed the 60% average threshold.

Western Europe’s three largest economies all fall in the top twenty of the index, led by Germany (11) followed by France (17) and the UK (19). The lower range in the region comprises Italy (34), Portugal (41), Greece (44) and Spain (45). In total, the 28 current member states of the European Union collectively achieve a group average score of 78.48, with 12 member states passing the 80% threshold. The remaining 16 member states all make use of 70% to 80% of their full human capital potential.

The Index covers 22 countries from Eastern Europe and Central Asia. With an overall average score of 75.02, the region ranks in third place globally, after North America and Western Europe. It includes several remarkable success stories with regard to successful human capital potential maximization, including Estonia (15) and Slovenia (16) which both score above the 80% threshold, and the Czech Republic (25), Ukraine (26), the Russian Federation (28), Kazakhstan (29) and Poland (30) all scoring within the top 30. Ukraine’s performance is particularly remarkable relative to its GDP per capita levels.

East Asia and the Pacific scores towards the middle of the range of Human Capital Index results, with an overall average score of 69.75. The best performing countries; Japan (4), Singapore (13), and the Republic of Korea (32) are global strongholds of human capital success, while countries such as Cambodia (100), Lao PDR (106) and Myanmar (109) trail the region despite a relatively solid performance relative to their income levels. China (71) scores near the regional and overall Index average with regard to its human capital performance.

The 24 countries from the Latin America and the Caribbean region score in the middle range of the Index, just behind the East Asia and the Pacific region, with an overall average score of 66.95. With the exception of Cuba (36) and Haiti (111), the gap between the best and worst performers in the region is much smaller than for any other region. Chile (51) and Argentina (56) share similar strengths and weaknesses, passing the 70% overall human capital maximization threshold. By contrast, Brazil (83) is lagging behind the regional average.

The Middle East and North Africa region comprises 15 countries that had enough data for coverage in the Index. Of these, only one—Israel (23)—makes it into the top 30 of the Index. The Gulf states, Bahrain (46), Qatar (66), and the United Arab Emirates (69), outperform the rest of the region in terms of making the best use of their human capital potential. The North African nations of Morocco (98), Tunisia (101) and Algeria (117) make up the lower end of the region’s rankings, ahead of Yemen (129) and Mauritania (130).

The Index covers six countries from the South Asia region: Sri Lanka (50), Bhutan (91), Bangladesh (104), India (105), Nepal (108) and Pakistan (118). The overall average score for the region is 59.92, behind the Middle East and North Africa and ahead of Sub-Saharan Africa, and all but the top two are yet to reach the 60% threshold with regard to optimizing their human capital potential.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, a cluster of countries, including Mauritius (76), Ghana (84), South Africa (88) and Zambia (90) score in the 60–70% range — placing them ahead of the Middle East and North Africa regional average and on a par with the lower half of the Latin American and East Asia and the Pacific regions. Other economies, however, such as Ethiopia (119) and Nigeria (127) face a range of human capital challenges, including low survival rates for basic education. With an overall average score of 55.44, the Sub-Saharan African region is the lowest-ranked region in the Index. In total, the Index covers 26 countries from the region.

Human capital investment and planning can make a difference to a nation’s human capital endowment regardless of where it falls on the global income scale. Creating a virtuous cycle of this nature should be the aim of all countries. That said, there remains a clear correlation between an economy’s income level and its capacity to develop and deploy human capital

Results by Age Group

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One further finding of the Index is the unequal development and deployment of human capital across the age group spectrum. Of the estimated 7.4 billion people that comprised the world’s population at the start of 2016, 26% were aged under 15, a further 16% fell within the 15-24 age group, while 41% fell within the prime working age group of 25-54 year-olds. At the upper end of the world population pyramid, 9% of the world’s people fall within the 55-64 age group and 8% are aged 65 and over. Of these, the Index finds that while the world has developed on average 81% of the human capital potential of under-15s, only 66% of the human capital potential of the next age group up, 15-24, has been similarly harnessed. This group is largely being failed when it comes to preparing them with the relevant skills for a successful education-to-employment transition. Those in the 25-54 group are similarly only making use of on average 63% of their human capital potential while the older two age groups are likewise under-utilized, with an average of 67% utilization in the 55-64 age group dropping to 54% for 65 and overs.

Using Big Data to Understand Skills

“The new platforms and technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution present unprecedented amounts of data with which to complement official statistics, although for now these insights represent particular membership bases, composed of digitally-connected subsets of the populations of selected economies. Through a unique partnership, the Report leverages LinkedIn’s Economic Graph to generate further insights – fully recognizing that unlike international data, these insights have limitations. For example, they provide an overview of a relatively high-skilled, digitally connected subset of the populations of selected economies:

Employers and employees need to start thinking about skill bundles, not job titles: While employees and employers often rely on academic degrees and previous job titles to determine fitness for a new role, a key finding in the report reveals that job titles can mean different things in different industries and geographies. The higher the skills overlap between two industries, the easier it is to transfer between them. For example, there is little skills overlap between LinkedIn members with the job title “data analyst” in the market research and oil & energy industries. By contrast, data analysts in the financial services and consumer retail industries exhibit very similar skills.

Re-skilling may be easier than we thought: Taking a focus on skills rather than jobs may broaden the talent pool for employers – and create new opportunities for workers. For example, only about 84,000 of LinkedIn’s 430 million members have the job titles “Data Scientist” or “Data Analyst”, a highly in-demand profession for which many employers report shortages. However analysis of the skills reveals an additional 9.7 million members that possess one or more of the primary or sub-skills for Data Scientist and Data Analyst, among which 600,000 have at least five of these skills. While this clearly does not make them data scientists, data such as this provides a wider range of options for developing new talent through a relatively modest amount of supplemental training.

Countries need to maximize learning at school and at work: Combining the Human Capital Index findings on skills diversity acquired through education with the LinkedIn findings on skills diversity acquired in the workforce highlights major differences across national boundaries. For example, Norway, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland and Portugal perform well on both skills diversity in both education and the workforce, while Australia and Romania perform relatively poorly on both areas. In the United States and Canada, the education system enables people to enter work with a relatively diverse set of skills, but these same people have less of an opportunity to diversify their skills in the workforce. In other countries, including France, Brazil and Colombia, opportunities to diversify skills by ‘learning on the job’ appear to be stronger than during the education system, where learning appears more concentrated around a narrower set of skills.

Understanding data can help countries manage brain drain and gain: Whether driven by declining opportunities within a country, or growing demand within others, in-demand workers go where there is opportunity. Mapping the skills flows between economies offers an unprecedented opportunity for governments, businesses and employees alike to understand skills hotspots in near real-time. Economic Graph data analysed by LinkedIn for the Report shows how countries are gaining or losing in-demand skills. For example, Australia, Chile and the United Arab Emirates are all leading their regions in gaining technology-related skills while countries such Greece—but also Canada and Finland—are losing them.

“Creating economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce is a defining issue of our time,” said Jeff Weiner, Chief Executive Officer, LinkedIn. “We’ve charted the supply, demand, and flow of talent as we’ve mapped the Economic Graph, and we’ve uncovered clear opportunities for governments and employers to capitalize on the potential of their workforce at much higher rates. We’re committed to providing educators, employers, policymakers, and workers with insights, products and services that narrow skills gaps and improve economies.”

Mapping the “Gig Economy”

While the potential and promise of new technologies for enhancing education and lifelong learning has already been well documented, there remains ambiguity around the role of platform technologies when it comes to accelerating and enhancing opportunities for the workforce. Using unique data from LinkedIn as well as public and private data from Uber, Care.com and Upwork, the Report sheds light on the so-called “gig economy” by revealing the diversity and range of platform-enabled work.

The Report finds that although digital formats for connecting people to work are new, the act of ad-hoc work or self-employment is not. With a global average of 13% own-account workers, the world working-age population is already deeply engaged in analogue formats of “gig work”. The Report also finds that while own-account work may be growing, particularly own-account work enabled by digital platforms, digital formats remain a very small portion of own-account work in many economies. For example, of all of LinkedIn’s nearly half a billion members, less than 3% are freelancers. In addition, digital platforms are growing in both the developed, emerging and developing world, where the number of own-account and informal workers are traditionally higher. The highest numbers of freelancers are in the Media, Entertainment & Information, Professional Services and Consumer Industries and in economies such as Italy, Argentina and Colombia. While some of these freelancers are using technology, most are still relying on traditional analogue ways of building relationships and accessing markets to generate returns for their services.

Moreover, digital work platforms can span a range of both high-skilled, high-wage work and low-skilled, low-wage work. Less evident but equally illuminating is the range of skills and wages within some of these platforms. For example, Care.com data shows the pay premium placed on what is seen as more skilled work, such as tutoring, as opposed to traditional care roles. In addition, platforms such as Upwork are seeing their fastest growth in highly-developed, high-wage, specialist skills building on an already strong base in high-skilled work. The age and gender profiles of platform economy workers are highly diverse and do not always follow patterns in the traditional economy. Finally, to the extent that digital talent platforms make large segments of the labour market more easily visible and measurable, often for the first time, they also provide an unprecedented opportunity for smart regulation.

The Report concludes that instead of passive “techno-optimism” or “techo-pessimism”, it is important for policymakers and companies to begin dialogue and action to leverage opportunities and mitigate risks. “The new technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are creating disruptions to work but they are also providing the tools to rapidly enhance human capital. How business and governments react today will determine which future we end up in. The Forum’s analysis seeks to provide the insights and space for leaders to understand the changes underway and adapt quickly,” said Saadia Zahidi, co-author of the Report and Head of Education, Gender and Work Initiatives.

The Human Capital Index ranks 130 countries on how well they are developing and deploying their human capital, focusing on education, skills and employment. The generational lens used in constructing the index sheds light on age-specific patterns of labour market exclusion and untapped human capital potential. In total, the Human Capital Index covers 46 indicators, using both publicly available data and a limited set of qualitative survey data from the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey. Details of the methodology can be found on the Report website.

The Human Capital Index is among the set of knowledge tools provided by the World Economic Forum as part of its System Initiative on Education, Gender and Work. The System Initiative produces analysis and insights focused on forecasting the future of work and skills across countries and industry sectors as well as best practices from businesses that are taking the lead in addressing skills gaps and gender gaps. The System Initiative also creates dialogues and public-private collaboration on education, gender and work in several regions of the world and within industry groups.

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The Path to Better Jobs in a Post Covid-19 Latin America

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Economic crises like the one that Latin America and the Caribbean is suffering now, have long-lasting effects on the structure of employment and may permanently drive many from the formal economy, according to a new World Bank report.

The Covid-19 pandemic is having the biggest impact on low-skilled workers and exacerbating the region’s already high inequality, according to EMPLOYMENT IN CRISIS: The Path to Better Jobs in a Post Covid-19 Latin America. Low-skilled workers often suffer from lower earnings for a decade following a crisis, while high-skilled workers see a quick rebound. As a result, government labor policies should focus on providing social safety nets and retraining, as well as improving the macroeconomic and business environment to ensure long-term and inclusive economic growth.

Economic recovery has often been a myth when it comes to jobs, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” said World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean Carlos Felipe Jaramillo. “The right policies can help limit the impact crises have on employment and foster the creation of more jobs in recoveries.

As some of the largest shocks that have shaken the region in recent decades show, the consequences of crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean are long-term and leave deep scars on employment. For example, employment data from before and after the Brazilian debt crisis, the effects of the Asian financial crisis in Chile, and the impact of the 2008-2009 global crisis in Mexico show that rapid recoveries did not materialize. In all three cases, the employment curve suffered a strongly negative deviation because of these crisis, which, far from reversing became more pronounced over time.

On average, after three years, major crisis cause a net loss of 1.5 million jobs, with a 3% contraction of formal work and an expansion of the informal. The current crisis could be even worse and cause a contraction in formal employment of up to 4%.

Low skilled workers tend to suffer the most, exacerbating persistent inequities in the region. For them, the scars of the crises can remain for up to a decade, with loss of income and greater vulnerability. In addition, two thirds of the countries in the region do not have national assistance or unemployment insurance programs. To minimize this long-term scarring, governments should adopt policies to support a sustainable recovery of economies and facilitate the recovery of employment.

We need to seize the opportunity to build back better,” said Joana Silva, World Bank Senior Economist and the lead author of the report. “We should strengthen our labor markets so they are able to cope with and quickly reverse the impacts of future shocks.”

The key initial step is to put strong, prudent macroeconomic frameworks and automatic stabilizers in place to shield labor markets from potential crises. Sound fiscal and monetary policies can preserve macroeconomic stability and avert system-wide financial strain in the face of a shock. Fiscal reforms, including less distortive taxation, more efficient public spending, financially sustainable pension programs and clear fiscal rules are the first line of defense against crises.

Countercyclical income support programs, such as unemployment insurance and other transfers to households during downturns, limit the damage caused by contractions and help economies recover. One of the region’s challenges, though, is that large segments of the workforce are informal and thus cannot be reached through traditional unemployment insurance.

Also, it is crucial to increase the capacity of the region´s social protection and labor policies, blending these policies into systems that provide income support and prepare workers for new jobs through reskilling and reemployment assistance. Governments’ quick reaction to expand some social protection and labor programs in the wake of the pandemic can lead to progress in building better and more integrated social registries. This is feasible in the short run and can make a difference in the reach of these programs.

But stronger macroeconomic stabilizers and reforms to social protection and labor systems are not enough. Jump-starting job recovery by supporting vigorous job creation is also needed. This effort will require tackling structural issues. Competition policies, regional policies and labor regulations are key areas. If countries don’t address these fundamental issues, recoveries will remain characterized by sluggish job creation.

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Critical Reforms Needed to Reduce Inflation and Accelerate the Recovery

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While the government took measures to protect the economy against a much deeper recession, it would be essential to set policy foundations for a strong recovery, according to the latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update (NDU).

The NDU, titled “Resilience through Reforms”, notes that in 2020 the Nigerian economy experienced a shallower contraction of -1.8% than had been projected at the beginning of the pandemic (-3.2%). Although the economy started to grow again, prices are increasing rapidly, severely impacting Nigerian households. As of April 2021, the inflation rate was the highest in four years. Food prices accounted for over 60% of the total increase in inflation. Rising prices have pushed an estimated 7 million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020 alone.

The report acknowledges notable government’s policy reforms aimed at mitigating the impact of the crisis and supporting the recovery; including steps taken towards reducing gasoline subsidies and adjusting electricity tariffs towards more cost-reflective levels, both aimed at expanding the fiscal space for pro-poor spending. In addition, the report highlights that both the Federal and State governments cut nonessential spending and redirected resources towards the COVID-19 response. At the same time, public-sector transparency has improved, in particular around the operations of the oil and gas sector.

The report however, notes that despite the more favorable external environment, with recovering oil prices and growth in advanced economies, a failure to sustain and deepen reforms would threaten both macroeconomic sustainability and policy credibility, thereby limiting the government’s ability to address gaps in human and physical capital which is needed to attract private investment.

“Nigeria faces interlinked challenges in relation to inflation, limited job opportunities, and insecurity”, said Shubham Chaudhuri, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria. ”While the government has made efforts to reduce the effect of these by advancing long-delayed policy reforms, it is clear that these reforms will have to be sustained and deepened for Nigeria to realize its development potential.”

This edition of the Nigeria Development Update proposes near-term policy option organized around three priority objectives:

  • Reduce inflation by implementing policies that support macroeconomic stability, inclusive growth, and job creation;
  • Protect poor households from the impacts of inflation;
  • Facilitate access to financing for small and medium enterprises in key sectors to mitigate the effects of inflation and accelerate the recovery.

“Given the urgency to reduce inflation amidst the pandemic, a policy consensus and expedite reform implementation on exchange-rate management, monetary policy, trade policy, fiscal policy, and social protection would help save lives, protect livelihoods, and ensure a faster and sustained recovery” said Marco Hernandez, the World Bank Lead Economist for Nigeria and co-author of the report.

In addition to assessing Nigeria’s economic situation, this edition of the NDU also discusses how the COVID-19 crisis has affected employment; how inflation is exacerbating poverty in Nigeria; how reforming the power sector can ignite economic growth; and how Nigeria can mobilize revenues in a time of crisis.

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Indonesia: How to Boost the Economic Recovery

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Indonesia’s economy is projected to rebound from the 2020 recession with 4.4 percent growth in 2021. The rebound is predicated on the pandemic being contained and the global economy continuing to strengthen, according to the World Bank’s latest Indonesia Economic Prospects report (“Boosting the Recovery”), released today.

The report highlights that although consumption and investment growth were subdued during the first quarter of 2021, consumer sentiment and retail sales started to improve during the second quarter suggesting stronger growth momentum. However, it also notes that pandemic related uncertainty remains elevated due to risks of higher viral transmission.

“Accelerating the vaccine rollout, ensuring adequate testing and other public health measures, and maintaining strong monetary and fiscal support in the near term are essential to boosting Indonesia’s recovery,” said Satu Kahkonen, World Bank Country Director for Indonesia and Timor-Leste. “Parallel reforms to strengthen the investment climate, deepen financial markets, and improve fiscal space for longer-term sustainability and growth will be important to further build consumer and investor confidence.”  

The report recommends the government to develop a well sequenced medium-term fiscal strategy, including clear plans to improve tax revenues and fiscal space for priority spending. It also highlights the importance of maintaining accommodative monetary policy and stimulating private credit to support the real sector while monitoring external and financial vulnerabilities.

The report highlights the critical role of adequate social assistance in mitigating rising poverty risks. It finds that maintaining the 2020 social assistance package in 2021 could potentially keep 4.7 million Indonesians out of poverty.  

This edition of the report also looks at the possibilities for Indonesia to boost higher productivity jobs and women’s economic participation.

“Indonesia has reduced poverty through job creation and rising labor incomes over the past decade. The next stage is to create middle-class jobs that are more productive, earn higher incomes, and provide social benefits,” said Habib Rab, World Bank Lead Economist for Indonesia. “While the crisis risks have exacerbated Indonesia’s employment challenges, it is also an opportunity to address the competitiveness and inclusion bottlenecks to creating middle-class jobs and strengthening women’s participation in the economy.”

The report recommends a four-pronged reform strategy to address these jobs-related challenges:

  • Mitigate employment losses by maintaining adequate job retention programs, social assistance, training, and reskilling programs until the recovery is stronger.
  • Boost productivity and middle-class jobs by promoting competition, investment, and trade.
  • Equip the Indonesian workforce to hold middle-class jobs by investing in education and training systems and programs to improve workers’ skills.
  • Bring more women into the labor force and reduce earning gaps between men and women by investing in child and elderly care and promoting private sector development in the care economy.

The Indonesia Economic Prospects Report is supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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