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Global Talent Crisis Lies at Heart of Inequality Debate

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Efforts to fully realize people’s economic potential – in countries at all stages of economic development – are falling short due to ineffective deployment of skills throughout the workforce, development of future skills and adequate promotion of ongoing learning for those already in employment.

These failures to translate investment in education during the formative years into opportunities for higher-quality work during the working lifetime contributes to income inequality by blocking the two pathways to social inclusion, education and work, according to the World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Report 2017, which is published today.

The report measures 130 countries against four key areas of human capital development; Capacity, largely determined by past investment in formal education; Deployment, the application and accumulation of skills through work; Development, the formal education of the next generation workforce and continued upskilling and reskilling of existing workers; and Know-how, the breadth and depth of specialized skills-use at work. Countries’ performance is also measured across five distinct age groups or generations: 0-14 years; 15-24 years; 25-54 years; 55-64 years; and 65 years and over.

According to the report’s Human Capital Index, 62% of human capital has now been developed globally. Only 25 nations have tapped 70% of their people’s human capital or more. With the majority of countries leveraging between 50% and 70% of their human capital, 14 countries remain below 50%.

A fundamental tenet of the report is that accumulation of skills does not end at a formal education, and the continuous application and accumulation of skills through work is part of human capital development. All too often economies already possess the required talent but fail to deploy it.

While much is often made of intergenerational inequalities when it comes to the realization of human capital, the report finds every generation faces considerable challenges when it comes to realizing individual potential. For example, while younger people are consistently better off than older generations when it comes to the initial investment in their education, their skills are not always deployed effectively and too many employers continue to look for ready-made talent. The problem of under-deployment of skills among the young also affects those coming towards the end of their working life. Meanwhile, few among those currently in employment – across all age groups –are gaining access to higher skilled work and opportunities to enhance know-how.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution does not just disrupt employment, it creates a shortfall of newly required skills. Therefore, we are facing a global talent crisis. We need a new mind-set and a true revolution to adapt our educational systems to the education needed for the future work force,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.

“Human capital is not a fixed concept – it can be enhanced over time, growing through use and depreciating through lack of use – across people’s lifetimes. This means we need a more proactive approach to managing the transition from education to employment and to ongoing learning and skills acquisition for today’s workforce. Otherwise, every country risks creating lost generations,” said Saadia Zahidi, Head, Education, Gender and Work, World Economic Forum.

“Skills are the fundamental unit of human capital. Knowing which skills are most resilient, most persistent, and most likely to remain relevant through technological innovation and economic change is key to successfully upskilling and reskilling workers. Using our data to arm governments and broader policy communities with a richer understanding of skills dynamics can and should fuel more nuanced and strategic investments in building human capital for the future,” said Guy Berger, LinkedIn Economist.

The Human Capital Index 2017

The top 10 is topped by smaller European countries – Norway (1), Finland (2), Switzerland (3) – as well as large economies such as the United States (4) and Germany (6). Four countries from East Asia and the Pacific region, three countries from the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region and one country from the Middle East and North Africa region are also in the index top 20.

At a regional level, the human capital development gap is smallest in North America, followed by Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, East Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. The gap is largest in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

North America is the strongest regional performer, with an average score of 73.95. The United States (4) ranks in the top 10 and Canada (14) in the top 20.

Western Europe has an overall average score of 71.10, the second highest after North America. The rankings are dominated by the Nordic countries –Norway (1), Finland (2), Denmark (5) and Sweden (8), as well as Switzerland (3) and Germany (6) –which collectively take the region’s top spots. Twelve countries have crossed the threshold of developing at least 70% of their human capital. The Netherlands (13) and Belgium (15) rank ahead of the United Kingdom (23) and France (26) to make up the mid-range of the regional league table, while three Mediterranean countries – Portugal (43), Spain (44) and Greece (48) – take the bottom ranks.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia ranks in third place globally, with an overall average score of 67.36. Three countries from the region rank in the top 20: Slovenia (9), Estonia (12) and the Russian Federation (16). The Czech Republic (22), Ukraine (24) and Lithuania (25) all score above the 70% threshold. The bottom-ranked countries in the region, Macedonia, FYR (67) and Albania (85), are held back by high unemployment and underemployment rates across all age groups.

East Asia and the Pacific region scores towards the middle of the range of the index, with an overall average of 65.77. The best-performing countries in the region, such as Singapore (11), Japan (17) and the Republic of Korea (27), are global strongholds of human capital success, while countries such as Lao PDR (84), Myanmar (89) and Cambodia (92) trail behind despite their high degree of human capital utilization across the deployment pillar. ASEAN economies such as Thailand (40), Vietnam (64), Indonesia (65) and Malaysia (33) score towards the middle range. China (34) ranks well ahead of the other BRICS nations except for the Russian Federation.

Latin America and the Caribbean scores in the lower middle range of the index, with an overall average score of 59.86. The gap between the best and worst performers in the region is smaller than for any other region. The two best-performing countries in the region are Argentina (52) and Chile (53). The region’s two largest economies, Mexico (69) and Brazil (77), rank in the middle and lower half of the index overall along with Peru (66) and Colombia (68). The bottom ranks of the region are made up of Venezuela (94) and Central American nations such as Honduras (101).

Middle East and North Africa has an overall average score of 55.91. Only one country, Israel (18), from the region makes it into the top 20. Three gulf states – the United Arab Emirates (45), Bahrain (47) and Qatar (55) – outperform the rest of the region’s Arab-speaking countries and score in the mid-range of the index overall. Turkey (75) scores at 60%. Saudi Arabia (82), the region’s largest economy, ranks ahead of Egypt (97), its most populous one. Algeria (112), Tunisia (115) and Morocco (118) make up the lower end of the rankings, ahead of Mauritania (129) and Yemen (129).

South Asia scores second lowest in the index, with an overall average score of 54.10. Sri Lanka (70) is the top performer, while Nepal (98), India (103), Bangladesh (111) and Pakistan (125) lag behind. With the exception of Sri Lanka, the rest have yet to reach the 60% threshold with regard to developing their human capital.

With an overall average score of 52.97, sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest-ranked region in the index. Rwanda (71), Ghana (72), Cameroon (73) and Mauritius (74) have developed more than 60% of their human capital. South Africa (87), the region’s second largest economy, comes towards the middle in the region. Nigeria (114) ranks in the lower midfield and Ethiopia (127) is the lowest performer, fourth from the bottom on the index overall.

The Specialization of Skills – an Analysis

A research partnership with LinkedIn sheds new light on education and skills around the globe.

Within the broader scope of expansion of higher education between generations, there has been a shift in the choices made by students on which subjects to specialize in as well as an expansion of the set of degrees on offer. Some fields of specialization, such as business administration and management see continued substantial representation by age group across all generations. Others such as economics have declined as the proportion of degrees amongst younger generations. Degrees such as computer science have been growing as a proportion of the degrees held by younger generations. Finally, degrees such as psychology have resurged as a proportion of the degrees held by the youngest cohorts, matching the popularity they once held amongst the oldest cohorts after having dipped among the middle cohorts.

Business, administration and law, social sciences, journalism and information as well as information and communication technologies (ICT) dominate the most popular specializations across all labour markets. Economies in South America are among the most likely to have a focused specialization in business, administration and law, especially in some of South America’s largest economies such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia. On the other hand, some of the countries in which students are more likely to have pursued a specialization in arts and humanities are the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and France. Countries that are home to large tertiary-educated talent pools specialized in engineering, manufacturing and construction include economies with high demand for petrochemical engineers, such as Qatar, Brunei Darussalam, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Bahrain.

When it comes to Information and Communication Technologies talent, data from LinkedIn’s global membership shows that there has been a considerable expansion of this particular set of specialist skills. Yet, this boom in ICT talent is not equally distributed across countries and generations. Economies such as Sweden, Australia, the United States, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have relatively more mature ICT talent; others such as Lithuania, Brazil, Romania and Estonia have predominantly young pools of ICT talent.

While expanding education access and undertaking curricula reform are critical for ensuring that future generations are prepared for a changing labour market, the Human Capital Report 2017 emphasizes the vital nature of continuous skilling, upskilling and reskilling through the workforce. This requires employers to provide learning opportunities to their workers and see these as investments, governments to take a holistic view to broadening and deepening the skills-specialization and complexity of work across their economies, and individuals to see learning as a lifelong activity.

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Economy

Is Myanmar an ethical minefield for multinational corporations?

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Business at a crossroads

Political reforms in Myanmar started in November 2010 followed by the release of the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and ended by the coup d’état in February 2021. Business empire run by the military generals thanks to the fruitful benefits of democratic transition during the last decade will come to an end with the return of trade and diplomatic sanctions from the western countries – United States (US) and members of European Union (EU).  US and EU align with other major international partners quickly responded and imposed sanctions over the military’s takeover and subsequent repression in Myanmar. These measures targeted not only the conglomerates of the military generals  but also the individuals who have been appointed in the authority positions and supporting the military regime.

However, the generals and their cronies own the majority of economic power both in strategic sectors ranging from telecommunication to oil & gas and in non-strategic commodity sectors such as food and beverages, construction materials, and the list goes on. It is a tall order for the investors to do business by avoiding this lucrative network of the military across the country. After the coup, it raises the most puzzling issue to investors and corporate giants in this natural resource-rich country, “Should I stay or Should I go?”

Crimes against humanity

For most of the people in the country, war crimes and atrocities committed by the military are nothing new. For instances, in 1988, student activists led a political movement and tried to bring an end to the military regime of the general Ne Win. This movement sparked a fire and grew into a nationwide uprising in a very short period but the military used lethal force and slaughtered thousands of civilian protestors including medical doctors, religious figures, student leaders, etc. A few months later, the public had no better options than being silenced under barbaric torture and lawless killings of the regime.

In 2007, there was another major protest called ‘Saffron Uprising’ against the military regime led by the Buddhist monks. It was actually the biggest pro-democracy movement since 1988 and the atmosphere of the demonstration was rather peaceful and non-violent before the military opened live ammunitions towards the crowd full of monks. Everything was in chaos for a couple of months but it ended as usual.

In 2017, the entire world witnessed one of the most tragic events in Myanmar – Again!. The reports published by the UN stated that hundreds of civilians were killed, dozens of villages were burnt down, and over 700,000 people including the majority of Rohingya were displaced to neighboring countries because of the atrocities committed by the military in the western border of the country. After four years passed, the repatriation process and the safety return of these refugees to their places of origin are yet unknown. Most importantly, there is no legal punishment for those who committed and there is no transitional justice for those who suffered in the aforementioned examples of brutalities.

The vicious circle repeated in 2021. With the economy in free fall and the deadliest virus at doorsteps, the people are still unbowed by the oppression of the junta and continue demanding the restoration of democracy and justice. To date, Assistant Association for Political Prisoner (AAPP) reported that due to practicing the rights to expression, 1178 civilians were killed and 7355 were arrested, charged or sentenced by the military junta. Unfortunately, the numbers are still increasing.

Call for economic disengagement

In 2019, the economic interests of the military were disclosed by the report of UN Fact-Finding Mission in which Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and Myanmar Economic Holding Limited (MEHL) were described as the prominent entities controlled by the military profitable through the almost-monopoly market in real estate, insurance, health care, manufacturing, extractive industry and telecommunication. It also mentioned the list of foreign businesses in partnership with the military-linked activities which includes Adani (India), Kirin Holdings (Japan), Posco Steel (South Korea), Infosys (India) and Universal Apparel (Hong Kong).

Moreover, Justice for Myanmar, a non-profit watchdog organization, revealed the specific facts and figures on how the billions of revenues has been pouring into the pockets of the high-ranked officers in the military in 2021. Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE), an another military-controlled authority body, is the key player handling the financial transactions, profit sharing, and contractual agreements with the international counterparts including Total (France), Chevron (US), PTTEP (Thailand), Petronas (Malaysia), and Posco (South Korea) in natural gas projects. It is also estimated that the military will enjoy 1.5 billion USD from these energy giants in 2022.

Additionally, data shows that the corporate businesses currently operating in Myanmar has been enriching the conglomerates of the generals and their cronies as a proof to the ongoing debate among the public and scholars, “Do sanctions actually work?” Some critics stressed that sanctions alone might be difficult to pressure the junta without any collaborative actions from Moscow and Beijing, the longstanding allies of the military. Recent bilateral visits and arm deals between Nay Pyi Taw and Moscow dimmed the hope of the people in Myanmar. It is now crystal clear that the Burmese military never had an intention to use the money from multinational corporations for benefits of its citizens, but instead for buying weapons, building up military academies, and sending scholars to Russia to learn about military technology. In March 2021, the International Fact Finding Mission to Myanmar reiterated its recommendation for the complete economic disengagement as a response to the coup, “No business enterprise active in Myanmar or trading with or investing in businesses in Myanmar should enter into an economic or financial relationship with the security forces of Myanmar, in particular the Tatmadaw [the military], or any enterprise owned or controlled by them or their individual members…”

Blood money and ethical dilemma

In the previous military regime until 2009, the US, UK and other democratic champion countries imposed strict economic and diplomatic sanctions on Myanmar while maintaining ‘carrot and stick’ approach against the geopolitical dominance of China. Even so, energy giants such as Total (France) and Chevron (US), and other ‘low-profile’ companies from ASEAN succeeded in running their operations in Myanmar, let alone the nakedly abuses of its natural resources by China. Doing business in this country at the time of injustice is an ethical question to corporate businesses but most of them seems to prefer maximizing the wealth of their shareholders to the freedom of its bottom millions in poverty.

But there are also companies not hesitating to do something right by showing their willingness not to be a part of human right violations of the regime. For example, Australian mining company, Woodside, decided not to proceed further operations, and ‘get off the fence’ on Myanmar by mentioning that the possibility of complete economical disengagement has been under review. A breaking news in July, 2021  that surprised everyone was the exit of Telenor Myanmar – one of four current telecom operators in the country. The CEO of the Norwegian company announced that the business had been sold to M1 Group, a Lebanese investment firm, due to the declining sales and ongoing political situations compromising its basic principles of human rights and workplace safety.

In fact, cutting off the economic ties with the junta and introducing a unified, complete economic disengagement become a matter of necessity to end the consistent suffering of the people of Myanmar. Otherwise, no one can blame the people for presuming that international community is just taking a moral high ground without any genuine desire to support the fight for freedom and pro-democracy movement.

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Economy

The Covid After-Effects and the Looming Skills Shortage

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coronavirus people

The shock of the pandemic is changing the ways in which we think about the world and in which we analyze the future trajectories of development. The persistence of the Covid pandemic will likely accentuate this transformation and the prominence of the “green agenda” this year is just one of the facets of these changes. Market research as well as the numerous think-tanks will be accordingly re-calibrating the time horizons and the main themes of analysis. Greater attention to longer risks and fragilities is likely to take on greater prominence, with particular scrutiny being accorded to high-impact risk factors that have a non-negligible probability of materializing in the medium- to long-term. Apart from the risks of global warming other key risk factors involve the rising labour shortages, most notably in areas pertaining to human capital development.

The impact of the Covid pandemic on the labour market will have long-term implications, with “hysteresis effects” observed in both highly skilled and low-income tiers of the labour market. One of the most significant factors affecting the global labour market was the reduction in migration flows, which resulted in the exacerbation of labour shortages across the major migrant recipient countries, such as Russia. There was also a notable blow delivered by the pandemic to the spheres of human capital development such as education and healthcare, which in turn exacerbated the imbalances and shortages in these areas. In particular, according to the estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO) shortages can mount up to 9.9 million physicians, nurses and midwives globally by 2030.

In Europe, although the number of physicians and nurses has increased in general in the region by approximately 10% over the past 10 years, this increase appears to be insufficient to cover the needs of ageing populations. At the same time the WHO points to sizeable inequalities in the availability of physicians and nurses between countries, whereby there are 5 times more doctors in some countries than in others. The situation with regard to nurses is even more acute, as data show that some countries have 9 times fewer nurses than others.

In the US substantial labour shortages in the healthcare sector are also expected, with anti-crisis measures falling short of substantially reversing the ailments in the national healthcare system. In particular, data published by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges), suggests that the United States could see an estimated shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034, including shortfalls in both primary and specialty care.

The blows sustained by global education from the pandemic were no less formidable. These affected first and foremost the youngest generation of the globe – according to UNESCO, “more than 1.5 billion students and youth across the planet are or have been affected by school and university closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic”. On top of the adverse effects on the younger generation (see Box 1), there is also the widening “teachers gap”, namely a worldwide shortage of well-trained teachers. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), “69 million teachers must be recruited to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030”.

From our partner RIAC

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Economy

Accelerating COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake to Boost Malawi’s Economic Recovery

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Lunzu market in southern Malawi. WFP/Greg Barrow

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries including Malawi have struggled to mitigate its impact amid limited fiscal support and fragile health systems. The pandemic has plunged the continent into its first recession in over 25 years, and vulnerable groups such as the poor, informal sector workers, women, and youth, suffer disproportionately from reduced opportunities and unequal access to social safety nets.

Fast-tracking COVID-19 vaccine acquisition—alongside widespread testing, improved treatment, and strong health systems—are critical to protecting lives and stimulating economic recovery. In support of the African Union’s (AU) target to vaccinate 60 percent of the continent’s population by 2022, the World Bank and the AU announced a partnership to assist the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) initiative with resources, allowing countries to purchase and deploy vaccines for up to 400 million Africans. This extraordinary effort complements COVAX and comes at a time of rising cases in the region.

I am convinced that unless every country in the world has fair, broad, and fast access to effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines, we will not stem the spread of the pandemic and set the global economy on track for a steady and inclusive recovery. The World Bank has taken unprecedented steps to ramp up financing for Malawi, and every country in Africa, to empower them with the resources to implement successful vaccination campaigns and compensate for income losses, food price increases, and service delivery disruptions.

In line with Malawi’s COVID-19 National Response and Preparedness Plan which aims to vaccinate 60 percent of the population, the World Bank approved $30 million in additional financing for the acquisition and deployment of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. This financing comes as a boost to Malawi’s COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness project, bringing World Bank contributions in this sector up to $37 million.

Malawi’s decision to purchase 1.8 million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines through the AU/African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) with World Bank financing is a welcome development and will enable Malawi to secure additional vaccines to meet its vaccination target.

However, Malawi’s vaccination campaign has encountered challenges driven by concerns regarding safety, efficacy, religious and cultural beliefs. These concerns, combined with abundant misinformation, are fueling widespread vaccine hesitancy despite the pandemic’s impact on the health and welfare of billions of people.  The low uptake of COVID-19 vaccines is of great concern, and it remains an uphill battle to reach the target of 60 percent by the end of 2023 from the current 2.2 percent.

Government leadership remains fundamental as the country continues to address vaccine hesitancy by consistently communicating the benefits of the vaccine, releasing COVID data, and engaging communities to help them understand how this impacts them.

As we deploy targeted resources to address COVID-19, we are also working to ensure that these investments support a robust, sustainable and resilient recovery. Our support emphasizes transparency, social protection, poverty alleviation, and policy-based financing to make sure that COVID assistance gets to the people who have been hit the hardest.

For example, the Financial Inclusion and Entrepreneurship Scaling Project (FInES) in Malawi is supporting micro, small, and medium enterprises by providing them with $47 million in affordable credit through commercial banks and microfinance institutions. Eight months into implementation, approximately $8.4 million (MK6.9 billion) has been made available through three commercial banks on better terms and interest rates. Additionally, nearly 200,000 urban households have received cash transfers and urban poor now have more affordable access to water to promote COVID-19 prevention.

Furthermore, domestic mobilization of resources for the COVID-19 response are vital to ensuring the security of supply of health sector commodities needed to administer vaccinations and sustain ongoing measures. Likewise, regional approaches fostering cross-border collaboration are just as imperative as in-country efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. United Nations (UN) partners in Malawi have been instrumental in convening regional stakeholders and supporting vaccine deployment.

Taking broad, fast action to help countries like Malawi during this unprecedented crisis will save lives and prevent more people falling into poverty. We thank Malawi for their decisive action and will continue to support the country and its people to build a resilient and inclusive recovery.

This op-ed first appeared in The Nation, via World Bank

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