Rankings in Western Europe are dominated by the Nordic countries—Norway (1), Finland (2), Denmark (5) and Sweden (8)—as well as Switzerland (3) and Germany (6), which collectively take the region’s top spots.
The Netherlands (13) and Belgium (15) rank ahead of the United Kingdom (23) and France (26) to make up the mid-range of the regional league table, while three Mediterranean countries—Portugal (43), Spain (44) and Greece (48)—take the bottom ranks.
The overall average score of the region is 71.10, the second highest after North America, and 12 out of the 20 Western European countries covered by the Index have crossed the threshold of effectively developing at least 70% of their human capital. The region shows fairly high homogeneity in human capital in contrast to regions such as East Asia and the Pacific or Middle East and North Africa.
Generally, most of the region performs below the global average with regard to the successful deployment of the human capital of its young generation, with comparatively low labour force participation and high unemployment and underemployment rates, highlighting some of the structural challenges facing the region. The Mediterranean countries in particular continue to be affected by high levels of youth unemployment—reaching 48% in Greece (48) and 43% in Spain (44)—despite some improvement compared to the recent past. More positively, across Western Europe there are well-educated older generations, with high tertiary attainment among the region’s still active 55–64 age group, as well as generally solid performance on the Development subindex. Moreover, 17 of the top 30-ranked countries on the Know-how subindex are in Western Europe, indicating the depth of human capital the region may draw on as the Fourth Industrial Revolution advances.
Additional opportunities exist to realize a greater share of untapped human capital in some of the region’s largest economies, including the United Kingdom (23), France (26) and Italy (35). Whereas the United Kingdom ranks in the top 10 on the Know-how subindex, with a significant high-skilled employment share (48%), it underperforms on the Capacity subindex, indicating opportunities for realizing greater human capital through targeted re- and upskilling, especially of its existing workforce and older generations. By contrast, France underperforms on the Deployment subindex with somewhat high unemployment and a 35% drop in labour force participation between the 25–54 and 55–64 age ranges. It does show a solid performance on the remaining subindexes, but could also do more to increase the skill diversity of the nation’s graduates. Similarly, Italy (35) is held back by a low labour force participation rate, due to a somewhat large gender gap, and high youth unemployment. It also scores poorly on the quality of its on-the-job training. The country does, however, perform better on the Capacity subindex as well as on the skill diversity of its graduates.