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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

Turkey and Trump’s sanctions-based “political economy”

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By the end of last year, the Turkish economy had slipped into a technical recession, boosting in 12 months by only 2.6%, despite the fact that a year ago the government expected GDP to grow by 3.8%. The slowdown is particularly striking against the background of sustainable development over the past seven years: in 2010, the country’s GDP grew by 8.5%, in 2011 – by 11.1%, in 2012 – by 4.8%, in 2013 – by 8.5%, in 2014 – by 5.2%, in 2015 – by 6.1%, in 2016 – by 3.2% and in 2017 – by 7.4%  This trend has turned Turkey into one of the fastest developing economies, earning it 17th position worldwide in nominal GDP and 13th in the GDP value regarding purchasing power parity.

The situation changed by the middle of 2018, when relations with Washington deteriorated to the point of a trade war. The Trump administration resorted to the much-practiced method of targeting the “dissenters”: it raised drastically customs duties on steel and aluminum imported from Turkey (which, however, did not prevent the United States from becoming the second buyer of Turkish metallurgical produce by the end of the year). On August 1 the US introduced sanctions against Turkish Interior and Justice Ministers. At that time, the main stumbling block (at least on the surface of it) was Turkey’s refusal to release American priest Andrew Brunson who was detained in 2016 on charges of  espionage and links to Fethullah Gulen’s movement along with the Kurdistan Workers ’Party. For some time Donald Trump’s propaganda slogans were dominated by the maxim “to save rank-and-file pastor Brunson”.

Turkey responded by slapping import duties on American goods: cars, alcohol, tobacco, cosmetics. And, of course, it put two US ministers on its sanctions list.

But the forces were clearly far from equal. As a result, the Turkish lira collapsed. At the beginning of 2018 one dollar traded for 3.8 liras, whereas by the end of the year it sold for 5.3 liras. Moreover, at the peak of the weakening of the national currency, the dollar cost almost 7 liras. The Central Bank of Turkey was forced to raise the interest rate, even despite opposition from the country’s omnipotent president. Today, the rate has climbed up to the red level of 24%. Consequently, there has been a drop in the sales of real estate, cars, and a number of other industrial goods. Prospects for inflation have materialized too – in October, inflation hit a fifteen-year high, exceeding 25 percent.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan put the blame for the crisis on Turkey’s foreign ill-wishers. This time – with a lion’s share of truth.

In October, the court sentenced Branson to imprisonment for exactly the time he had already served. The pastor returned home, mutual sanctions were lifted, which partly calmed the markets. But only partly.

According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TSI), the country’s GDP increased by 2.6% by the end of the year. At the same time, the service sector grew by 5.6%, agrarian – by 1.3%, industrial – by only 1.1%. Exports, compared to the previous year, increased by 7% – to 168 billion dollars (a record figure in the entire history of the Turkish Republic). Foreign trade deficit, amid a boost of imports prices,  decreased by 28.4% to $ 55 billion, while imports proper dropped by 4.6% to 223 billion dollars. Tourism revenues increased by 12.3% to 29.5 billion

At first glance, the situation is far from critical, but, according to the TSI, over the year, per capita GDP dropped from $10,597 to $ 9,632; household expenditures, although going up by 1.1% on the year, went down by 8.9% in the fourth quarter. In December unemployment rate among the able-bodied population reached 13.5% – more than 4.3 million people.

Nevertheless, Berat Albayrak, Minister of Treasury and Finance of Turkey, sounded optimistic: “The worst days for the economy are over. The government is confident that the growth of the Turkish economy in 2019 will match the forecasts laid down in the New Economic Program. ”

In general, the above-mentioned program envisages the implementation of reforms that will protect export-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises, strengthen their competitiveness, stimulate the economy to secure a high level of added value. An important part of the document is a clause that stipulates cutting government spending on expensive infrastructure projects, often designed to foster the image rather than the economy.

Specialists differ in assessing the prospects for the Turkish economy: forecasts vary from a slight increase to a further decline. In particular, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “Economists expect the cooling to continue. The OECD forecasts a further reduction in the economic growth of (Turkey-author) for 2019 to minus 1.8 percent.” So far, the trend is as follows: industrial production, for example, in January 2019 fell by 7.3% against January last year.

Among the chronic illnesses of the Turkish economy is a deficit of the balance of payments, which the government traditionally tries to compensate with foreign loans and foreign investment – these primarily provided economic growth in previous years. Now this source seems nearly exhausted as investors worldwide are growing increasingly wary of developing markets. The position of Turkey is aggravated by the uncertainty of foreign capital about the independence of the Central Bank, its concerns about the unpredictability of the country’s policy and the adequacy of its economic course (first of all, its adherence to ambitious projects with questionable economic efficiency).

Also, potential investors are deterred by the strained relations between Ankara and Washington. For many, President Trump’s recent treat to “ruin” Turkey for its policy on Syrian Kurds and his recent decision to abolish customs preferences for a number of Turkish goods came as signaling the continuation of a trade war. Significantly, these statements were made after the Turkish leadership confirmed its determination to acquire Russian air defense systems, thereby making it clear that pursued a course towards independence in strategic decision-making.

For Turkey, the United States is a fairly important trading partner, which in 2018 accounted for almost five percent of Turkish exports ($ 8.3 billion) and more than five percent of imports ($ 12.3 billion).

The recession in the Turkish economy has a certain negative impact on Russian-Turkish economic results. Last year, Turkey became Russia’s sixth largest trading partner. In particular, it accounts for a considerable share of Russian exports of metals, grain and, most importantly, energy carriers (the second, after Germany, importer of oil in the world). In February, according to Gazprom, the export of Russian gas to non-CIS countries decreased by 13% in annual terms. The company said the main reasons behind the decrease were the warm weather in Europe and the crisis in Turkey.

The Russian economy has succeeded in adapting to the extensive sanction pressure from Washington and, it looks like the Trump administration has now chosen to “attack from the flank”, targeting one of Moscow’s major foreign economic partners. It would not be a mistake to assume that the ability of the Turkish leadership to resist pressure from its “strategic ally” and NATO partner in the near future will largely determine not only economic, but also political relations between Moscow and Ankara. 

First published in our partner International Affairs

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Ambiguity in European economic leadership

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Europe’s economic situation remains uncertain! The European economic crisis and austerity policies remain in place. On the other hand, there is no sign that the EU is passing through the current situation. Two conservative /Social Democrats in Europe have not been able to effectively counteract the economic crisis over the last few years.

 This same issue has led to anger by European citizens from traditional European parties. Subsequently, the trend of European citizens to nationalist and extremist parties has increased in recent years.

The events that have taken place in France in recent months have led to disappointment with the eurozone leaders over the current deadlock.The most important point is that Macron was planned to assume the title of the Europe’s economic leader in the short term, and that was to be after succeeding in creating and sustaining economic reforms in France and the Eurozone.

 Meanwhile, European citizens expressed their satisfaction with the election of Macron as French President in 2017. They thought that the French president, while challenging austerity policies, would strengthen the components of economic growth in the European Union. Moreover, EU leaders also hoped that Macron’s success in pursuing economic reforms in France would be a solid step in pushing the entire Eurozone out of the economic crisis.

 In other words, in the midst of anti-Euro and extremist and far-right movements in Europe, Macron was the last hope of European authorities to “manage the economic crisis” which was raising inside the Eurozone: the hope that has soon faded away!

The main dilemma in France is quite clear!”Failing to persuade French citizens” on his economic reforms, and Macron’s miscalculations about the support of French citizens for himself, were among the important factors in shaping this process. Macron had to give concessions to protesters to prevent further tensions in France.

 After the country’s month-long demonstrations, Macron was forced to retreat from his decision on raising the fuel price. Besides, he had no way but to make promises to the French citizens on issues such as raising the minimum wages and reducing the income tax. This had but one meaning: Macron’s economic reforms came to an end. Right now, European authorities know well that Macron is incapable of regaining his initial power in France and the Eurozone by 2022 (the time for the France general elections).

 Therefore, Macron has to forget the dream of EU’s economic leadership until the last moments of his presence at the Elysees Palace. Of course, this is if the young French president isn’t forced to resign before 2022! The European authorities and the Eurozone leaders have no alternative for Macron and his economic reforms in Europe. That’s why they’re so worried about the emergence of anti-EU movements in countries such as France and Germany.

 For example, they are well aware that if Marin Le Pen can defeat Macron and come to power in France during the upcoming elections, then the whispers of the collapse of the Eurozone, and even the European Union, will be clearly heard, this time with a loud voice, all over the Europe.

First published in our partner Tehran Times

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Economic integration: Asia and the Pacific’s best response to protectionism

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

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Deepening economic integration in Asia and the Pacific is a longstanding regional objective. Not an end in itself but a means of supporting the trade, investment and growth necessary to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is a priority for all member states of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP). China has a valuable contribution to make so I am beginning 2019 with a visit to Beijing. One to discuss with Chinese leaders how we can strengthen our collaboration and accelerate progress.

The case for deeper integration in Asia and the Pacific is becoming increasingly apparent. Recent trade tensions highlight Asia and the Pacific’s vulnerability to protectionism from major export markets. UN ESCAP analysis shows how regional supply chains are being disrupted and investor confidence shaken. Export growth is expected to slow and foreign direct investment to continue its downward trend. Millions of jobs are forecast to be lost, others will be displaced. Unskilled workers, particularly women, are likely to suffer most. Increasing seamless regional connectivity – expanding the infrastructure which underpins cross border commercial exchanges and intraregional trade – must be part of our response.

We should build on the existing Asian transport infrastructure agreements UN ESCAP maintains to further reduce regulatory constraints, costs and delays. For instance, UN ESCAP members are working to improve the efficiency of railway border crossings along the Trans-Asian Railway network. There is great potential to improve electronic information exchange between railways, harmonise customs formalities and improve freight trains’ reliability. The recent international road transport agreement between the governments of China, Mongolia and the Russian Federation grants traffic rights for international road transport operations on the sections of the Asia Highway which connect their borders. We should expand it to other countries. There is also huge opportunity to develop our region’s dry ports, the terminals pivotal to the efficient shipment of sea cargo to inland destinations by road or rail. A regional strategy is in place to build a network of dry ports of major international significance. UN ESCAP is looking forward to working with China to implement it.

Sustainable energy, particularly cross-border power trade, is another key plank UN ESCAP member States’ connectivity agenda. Connecting electricity grids is not only important to meet demand, ensure energy access and security. It is also necessary to support the development of large-scale renewable energy power plants and the transition to cleaner energy across Asia and the Pacific. The fight against climate change in part depends on our ability to better link up our networks. ASEAN’s achievements in strengthening power grids across borders is a leading example of what political commitment and technical cooperation can deliver. At the regional level UN ESCAP has brought together our region’s experts to develop a regional roadmap on sustainable energy connectivity. China is currently chairing this group.

For maximum impact, transport and energy initiatives need to come in tandem with the soft infrastructure which facilitates the expansion of trade. UN ESCAP analysis ranks China among the top trade facilitation and logistics performers in our region. This expertise contributed to a major breakthrough in cross-border e-commerce development and ultimately led to a UN treaty on trade digitalisation. This has been adopted by UN ESCAP members to support the exchange of electronic trade data and documents and signed by China in 2017. Now, UN ESCAP is working to support the accession and ratification of twenty-five more countries who recognise the opportunity to minimise documentary requirements, promote transparency and increase the security of trade operations. Full implementation of cross-border paperless trade in Asia and the Pacific could reduce export costs by up to 30 percent. Regional export gains could be as has high as $250 billion.

As we look to the future and work to accelerate progress towards the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals, economic integration must remain a priority. A strong UN-China sustainable development partnership is essential to take this agenda forward and strengthen our resilience to international trade tensions and economic uncertainty. Working with all the countries in our region, we have a unique opportunity to place sustainability considerations at the heart of our efforts and build seamless regional connectivity. That is an opportunity, which in 2019, UN ESCAP is determined to seize.UNESCAP

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