SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): Singapore has moved up one notch to second place in a global ranking of how well countries attract, develop, support and retain talent - behind Switzerland but ahead of the United States.
The yearly global talent competitiveness index, which covers 134 countries, is published by French business school Insead and non-profit research body Portulans Institute.
In the same index for cities, Singapore ranked seventh, down from third last year but still the only Asian city in the top ten.
San Francisco topped the city index, followed by Geneva, Boston and Zurich.
For the country ranking, Singapore made it to top three in four of the six criteria, which encompass enabling, attracting, growing and retaining talent, vocational and technical skills, and global knowledge skills.
The Republic was praised for enabling talent with its strong regulatory landscape, attracting talent around specific areas such as bio-nanotechnologies, and growing talent with its strong education quality.
It also excelled in global knowledge skills, and has one of the world's best pools of vocational and technical skills which help Singapore's ability to match labour market demand and workforce supply.
"However, the city state's ability to retain talent remains its main weakness, and more needs to be done to improve issues related to both sustainability and lifestyle," the study said.
Indeed, Singapore continues to face challenges in dealing with its manpower crunch, especially in top technology jobs that require highly skilled individuals.
Dr Bruno Lanvin, Insead distinguished fellow and co-editor of the index, told The Straits Times that while Singapore attracts international talent, it does not keep them for very long.
But there is also much that the city state has improved in, he said.
"Singapore's position in formal education has improved, mainly because of greater vocational enrolment and higher tertiary education spending," he added.
"It also reflects Singapore's continuous efforts to enhance the quality of its educational system, from coding classes at an early age to problem-solving in primary and secondary education."
He added that the quality of Singapore's information technology infrastructure has been an asset during the Covid-19 pandemic, as other less-connected economies have been struggling to maintain economic activities in the face of lockdown measures.
The report also noted that Covid-19 "sent shockwaves across the global talent landscape", and the post-pandemic recovery is likely to make the competition for talent even more unequal.
"Disparities in vaccination rates and pace are clearly playing against Africa and some other lower-income regions of the planet. In many parts of the world, the time lost in education and learning will remain a handicap for an entire generation, creating an unmendable dent in local talent pyramids," it said.
Globally, the gap has already widened between talent-competitive countries and those not so, the report added.
Insead senior affiliate professor of strategy Felipe Monteiro said that top-ranked countries such as Switzerland and Singapore are speeding up their transition to a sustainable and future-proof economy.
"Switzerland is strengthening its position as a leader in sustainable finance and Singapore is forging ahead with its ambitious Green Plan 2030 and making headway in digital trade and green economy cooperation with China. These forward-looking nations are taking steps to build robust economies and societies."
The report also highlighted the ways Covid-19 has changed talent competition for all economies due to travel limitations, the growing importance of virtual meetings and the reordering of national priorities to deal with the resulting social and economic emergencies.
But as online tools open new doors to better work-life balance and to working from anywhere, new inequalities have surfaced between those who can contribute online and those who have to be physically present at the workplace.
Inequalities may also grow among workers, depending on their sector of activity and their level of qualification.
"The growing inequalities anticipated among workers have often been described as a distinctive trait of a K-shaped recovery - one in which workers employable in recovery-supportive sectors such as technology, retail, or software services would find more employment opportunities than those locked in other, often distressed, activities such as travel or entertainment," the study said.