Four thematic dimensions form the subindexes of the Global Human Capital Index—Capacity, Deployment, Development and Know-how. The Index’s Capacity subindex quantifies the existing stock of education across generations, the Deployment subindex covers active participation in the workforce across generations, the Development subindex reflects current efforts to educate, skill and upskill the student body and the working age population, and the Know-how subindex captures the growth or depreciation of working-age people’s skillsets through opportunities for higher value-add work. The Global Human Capital Index aims to portray these varied dimensions within the limits of available data and where possible and relevant applies a generational lens across five distinct age groups or generations—0–14 years; 15–24 years; 25–54 years; 55–64 years; and 65 years and over (Table 1 below).
Table 1: Structure of the Global Human Capital Index
A more educated population is better prepared to adapt to new technologies, innovate and compete on a global level. The Capacity subindex features four common measures of formal educational attainment, disaggregated across age groups in the workforce. These capture the percentage of the population that has achieved at least primary, (lower) secondary or tertiary education, respectively, and the proportion of the population that has a basic level of literacy and numeracy.
Beyond formal learning, human capital is enhanced in the workplace through learning-by-doing, tacit knowledge, exchange with colleagues and formal on-the-job learning. The Deployment subindex measures how many people are able to participate actively in the workforce as well as how successfully particular segments of the population—women, youth and older people, those who tend to be particularly inefficiently engaged in labour markets—are able to contribute. Including both those currently employed as well as people actively looking for work, a country’s labour force participation rate is the broadest measure of the share of its people participating in the labour market. Unemployment rates capture the subset of this group that is currently out of a job but would like to work. The underemployment rate is the share of those currently employed who would be willing and available to work more. A measure of the gender gap in economic participation is also included as it remains a critical weakness in most labour markets around the world.4
This subindex concerns that formal education of the next-generation workforce and continued upskilling and reskilling of the current workforce. Access to education for today’s children and youth—the future workforce—is captured using net adjusted enrolment rates for primary school and net enrolment rates for secondary school, as well as through gross tertiary enrolment ratios and a measure of the education gender gap at the secondary enrolment level, for the under 15 and 15–24 age groups. As young adults with completed secondary education face a choice between tertiary studies, acquiring further specialized vocational skills or entering the labour market, the Index includes a measure of enrolment in vocational training programmes, without making a value judgement between these three options in terms of index scoring.5 The Index also includes two qualitative indicators on the quality of primary education and on how well the education system as a whole meets the needs of a competitive economy, as assessed by a country’s business community. The Index includes an assessment of the skill diversity of a country’s recent graduates as a proxy for the range of expertise available to a country.6 Finally, outcomes on lifelong learning among the adult workforce are captured through a measure of formal staff training from the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey.
Know-how concerns the breadth and depth of specialized skills use at work. Economic complexity is a measure of the degree of sophistication of a country’s “productive knowledge” as can be empirically observed in the quality of its export products.7 In addition, the Index measures the current level availability of high- and mid-skilled opportunities and, in parallel, employer’s perceptions of the ease or difficulty of filling vacancies.