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Study ranks the global talent landscape by country

Posted by Celene Robert

November 17, 2021

The Global Talent Competitiveness Index is an annual report created by France-based graduate school INSEAD, in partnership with Accenture and Washington, D.C.-based think tank Portulans Institute. 

The GTCI focuses on how well different countries’ policies foster talent and boost competitiveness. The index accomplishes this by analyzing data from 134 countries and 155 cities.

The 2021 Global Talent Competitiveness Index finds that:

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed global organizations in ways apt to become permanent.

  2. The pandemic’s shockwaves to the global talent landscape will have long-term effects on labor markets. Online tools opened new avenues to work from anywhere.

  3. Governments have taken center stage amid the pandemic by providing financial resources to prevent businesses from collapsing and by introducing measures to protect citizens’ health.

  4. International inequalities have begun to widen again as the pandemic continues. These may worsen depending on the business sector and employees’ educational qualifications.

  5. Many middle-income economies are showing significant progress. Governments are playing a pivotal role in this by shaping policies conducive to their labor markets and talent pools. 

  6. Large cities with more resources adapted better to COVID-19 challenges and as a result are faring better on the talent scene.
Three key findings from the 2021 study

  1. The top 20 countries on the GTCI are high-income economies that perform well across both input measures, like education, and output measures, like employability.

  2. Switzerland ranked No. 1 overall for the eighth consecutive year and performed highly in all aspects of talent competitiveness. Singapore ranked No. 2 overall and excelled in talent retention methods. The U.S. ranked No. 3 overall and was identified as the world leader in talent growth, especially in terms of lifelong learning.

  3. Countries that invested in developing a digitally sophisticated workforce were far better equipped when pandemic-related lockdowns required remote work. 

How the rankings were measured

The GTCI’s four input variables are enabling, attracting, growing and retaining talent. Its two output variables are vocational and technical skills, and global knowledge skills, which are a product of their inputs. Below is a deeper look at each of the four input variables by various countries.

  1. Enable

    – Switzerland, Singapore and Denmark are the strongest countries in terms of enabling talent growth. The three elements that enable (or impede) talent within a country are its regulatory landscape, such as political stability and levels of corruption; the market landscape, such as R&D investments and ease of doing business; and the business landscape, such as labor rights and utilization of technology. 

  2. Attract

    – Luxembourg, Singapore and New Zealand are the strongest countries in terms of external openness to attracting talent. The three elements that attract talent to a country are the presence of Forbes Global 2000 companies, foreign-born populations and foreign direct investment projects. 

  3. Grow

    The U.S., Singapore and Switzerland are the strongest countries in terms of growing talent. The three elements that facilitate a country’s talent growth are formal education opportunities, such as vocational programs and top-rated universities; lifelong learning opportunities, such as on-the-job training and employee development programs; and access to growth opportunities, such as the use of virtual professional networks and delegation of authority.

  4. Retain

    – Switzerland, Norway and Denmark are the strongest countries in terms of retaining talent. The two elements that facilitate a country’s ability to retain talent are sustainability, such as environmental protections and pension and social protections; and lifestyle, such as personal rights and physician density.

Which countries match workers’ education, skills best to economic needs?

According to the GTCI, the top three countries in terms of pairing employee education and training with the needs of their economies are Switzerland, Finland and the U.S. This is evaluated based on the availability of midlevel skills, acquired through vocational training or higher education; and employability, referring to the ease of finding skilled employees with relevant education.

Which countries have the largest pool of workers with global knowledge skills?

Iceland, the U.S. and Singapore are the countries with the largest numbers of employees with global knowledge skills. People with these skills possess high levels of education, such as scientists, engineers and senior professionals; and exert talent impact, such as innovative output, high-value exports and scientific journal articles.

The top GTCI city for 2021

The GCTI ranks 155 cities based on their quality of life and international connectivity. The Top 10 cities of 2021’s GCTI are dominated by the U.S. and Europe, with San Francisco in the No. 1 position. 

Cities that rank the highest with the GTCI tend to excel in future-oriented technology such as AI or advanced tech like healthtech, medtech and fintech, such as Boston, Singapore and San Francisco, said report co-editor and INSEAD distinguished fellow Bruno Lanvin.  


Celene Robert
Celene Robert

Celene heads up the marketing at Escalon. Passionate about helping companies grow their business, she spends her days finding new ways to bring essential business services to startups, SMBs, and growth-minded companies. Based in the PNW, she’s the proud owner of 8 pairs of Birkenstocks and a sassy, cuddly cat.

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