International HR Administration: First Human Capital Index Finds Wide Gaps, Failures

This complete global solution for HR professionals combines custom research, strategic white papers, country primers, webinars, and the expert guidance you’ve come to expect from...

By Jenny David

June 12—Talent, not capital, will be the key factor linking innovation, competitiveness and growth in the 21st century, but a world in which “nobody is left behind” remains a distant prospect even in advanced economies, according to a new study of 100 countries' ability to maximize their human capital endowment.

The first Human Capital Index measured workforce participation at different age, educational and economic levels to quantify how countries are developing and deploying their human capital and to track their progress over time, the World Economic Forum said in a statement.

The report also provides the numbers of current and recent graduates in major fields of study in each country and detailed information on the population's workforce activity and levels of education.

‘A Critical Tool for Global Employers'

“Our goal is to support business leaders, policy-makers, civil society and the public in taking the informed, data-driven decisions that are needed to unlock human potential,” said Saadia Zahidi, head of WEF's Employment, Skills and HumanCapital Initiative and co-author of the report. “The index shows that all countries—both rich and poor—have yet to optimize their human capital and calls for a new people-centric model of growth.”

Julio A. Portalatin, president and CEO of Mercer Consulting, which supported the project, called the index a “critical tool for global employers.”

“It allows them to determine the most pressing issues impacting talent availability and suitability around the world today and identify those issues that have the potential to impact business success in the future,” he said.

In the 2015 index, only 14 nations scored 80 or more out of a possible 100 percent. Finland topped the rankings at 86, followed by Norway, Switzerland, Canada and Japan.

Among other large, developed economies, France came in 14th; the U.S. 17th, scoring just under 80 percent; and the U.K. 19th.

Among the BRICS, the Russian Federation placed highest with a score of 78 percent and China next at 67 percent. India came in last place among the 100 countries surveyed.

In general, the report said, country scores correlated with GDP per capita.

A ‘Fundamental Rethinking'

These results show that “addressing the challenges of the current system requires a fundamental and holistic rethinking of what it means to learn, to work and to fulfill one's potential as an individual, of how companies should plan for and invest in talent, of how education is delivered and what its substance and timing should be and of how governments should be addressing not just today's short-term concerns but also planning now for the needs of tomorrow's generations,” the report said.

“To make any of the changes necessary to unlock the world's latent talent—and hence its growth potential—we must look beyond campaign cycles and quarterly reports,” added Klaus Schwab, WEF founder and executive chairman. “Dialogue, collaboration and partnerships between all sectors are crucial for the adaptation of educational institutions, governments and businesses.”