Top 10 Talent Competitive Countries and Cities in 2017

Our friends at INSEAD, The Adecco Group, and Singapore’s Human Capital Leadership Institute have published the fourth edition of their Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI).

The GTCI measures the ability of countries to grow, attract and retain talent, and provides a tool-kit for countries and companies to design talent strategies and tackle crucial challenges like unemployment and skills shortages. In 2017, the partners also launched the 1st edition of the Global Cities Talent Competitiveness Index (GCTCI), a talent competitiveness ranking of a global sample of 46 cities.

Talent and technology

The 2017 GTCI study focuses on how technology is affecting talent competitiveness and the nature of work. Automation, artificial intelligence and the sharing economy are transforming jobs and creating new ones. In parallel, economic volatility, coupled with demographic, sociological and technological factors, are disrupting working norms. Combined, these trends give rise to a more independent and dispersed workforce. While technology can augment productivity and ultimately increase employment, getting there is challenging, given that the new jobs and working norms require skills that are not widely available yet. These include hard, technology skills, as well as people and project skills, given that collaboration and communication are increasingly required in professional settings. Top ranking countries in GTCI are those that have been more successful in preparing for these transformations, and have identified the talent needed to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the 4th industrial revolution.

Which countries and cities rank best?

Switzerland, Singapore and the UK lead the 2017 ranking, with the USA in 4th position and the Nordics in the top 10. All share innovative education systems that focus on meeting business needs by developing employable skills and providing young people with work experience. Key are also active employment policies, which provide flexible labour markets that also guarantee social protection. Such policies focus on retraining and mobility in response to market needs. Just take Denmark’s respected ‘Flexicurity’ system, where lean regulation benefits both companies and employees.

Moreover, GTCI talent champion countries share strong cooperation between their governments, businesses and institutions of education. Connectedness also turns cities into talent magnets, as shown by the GCTCI, where Copenhagen, Zurich, Helsinki and San Francisco lead the way. Top cities show a combination of strong infrastructure and information connectivity, investment in knowledge hubs and the presence of international companies, resulting in a ‘best of both worlds’ with high quality of life and career opportunities.

Top 10 countries

  1. Switzerland
  2. Singapore
  3. United Kingdom
  4. United States
  5. Sweden
  6. Australia
  7. Luxembourg
  8. Denmark
  9. Finland
  10. Norway

Top 10 cities

  1. Copenhagen
  2. Zurich
  3. Helsinki
  4. San Francisco
  5. Gothenburg
  6. Madrid
  7. Paris
  8. Los Angeles
  9. Eindhoven
  10. Dublin

Specific recommendations: employment and education policies are key

GTCI and GCTCI point to several steps that governments and businesses can take to create an environment in which technology boosts economic growth and employment, rather than acting as a stumbling block. Most of these best practices centre around education and employment policies that impart the skills and experience required to prosper in the modern-day world of work.

Education systems must provide employable skills

Too many of our education systems remains rooted in the industrial age. 21st century jobs require STEM skills. But in addition to hard skills, given the fast-paced and unpredictable nature of our world, people must embrace creativity, problem solving, collaboration and communication skills, and be committed to lifelong learning. Specifically, private-public partnership are urgently needed to reform education systems so that they are able to provide experiential and project based training. These include work-based training schemes, such as the apprenticeship systems that have proven so successful in Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

Flexible labour markets coupled with social protection

Many countries that are successful at attracting and retaining talent offer flexible, business-friendly labour markets, while simultaneously guaranteeing social protection. Denmark and Switzerland stand out on this front. In addition, in view of the growing importance of the sharing economy, to ensure a level playing field for all forms of employment, the same rules must apply to everyone. Ideal social protection measures include incentives to retraining and mobility in response to market needs. A solution for mobility could be ‘individual security accounts’ that permit benefit portability (unemployment insurance, health insurance, disability and injury insurance) as workers move between jobs and, potentially, countries.

Businesses play a key role

Business leaders have a major role to play in talent competitiveness. As the importance of collaboration and innovation grow, and workers become more independent, organisations need to become flatter, and need to encourage horizontal networks over traditional top-down management and authority. Moreover, they must be part of the process of lifelong learning through investment in training to drive constant upskilling. Finally, they must collaborate with governments to provide young people with more hands-on experience, through work experience schemes and apprenticeships.

Full report available at