The Human Capital Index
A nation’s human capital endowment—the skills and capacities that reside in people and that are put to productive use—can be a more important determinant of its long term economic success than virtually any other resource. This resource must be invested in and leveraged efficiently in order for it to generate returns—for the individuals involved as well as an economy as a whole.
The first edition of the World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Report explored the factors contributing to the development of a healthy, educated and productive labour force. This second, revised edition attempts to deepen the analysis by focusing on a number of key issues that the first edition brought to the fore and that can support better design of education policy and improved workforce planning.
Currently, more than 200 million people globally are out of a job, with youth hit particularly hard.1 Yet, a focus on unemployment rates alone provides an incomplete outlook on a nation’s success in utilizing its human capital endowment. A more inclusive metric of human capital outcomes would need to take stock of all those—including youth, women and older workers—who have the desire and potential to contribute their capabilities, skills and experience for their own well-being as well as that of economy and society as a whole. Such a metric would also need to assess the education and skills of both the active and inactive population. Above all, as today’s economies become ever more knowledge-based, technology-driven and globalized, and because we simply don’t know what the jobs of tomorrow will look like, there is a growing recognition that we have to prepare the next generation with the capacity for lifelong learning.2
The Human Capital Index seeks to serve as a tool for capturing the complexity of education and workforce dynamics so that various stakeholders are able to take better-informed decisions. Because human capital is critical not only to the productivity of society but also the functioning of its political, social and civic institutions, understanding its current state and capacity is valuable to a wide variety of stakeholders.
The Human Capital Index provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups. The methodology behind the rankings is intended to serve as a basis for time-series analysis that allows countries to track progress, relative to their own performance as well as that of others. As a vital support to the Index, the Country Profiles included in this Report provide a visual representation of countries’ demographic and labour force structure—calling attention to population dynamics such as youth bulges, ageing populations and shrinking workforces—as well as a wealth of information on countries’ human capital composition and contextual variables pointing to critical areas for urgent and longer-term investments.
In pointing to the education and employment outcome gaps, demographic trends and untapped talent pools, it is our hope that this Report can help governments, businesses, education providers and civil society institutions identify key areas for focus and investment. All of these entities have a stake in human capital development, whether their primary goal is to power their businesses, strengthen their communities, or create a population that is better able to contribute to and share in the rewards of growth and prosperity. We thus hope that this Report will also help foster public-private collaboration between sectors, ultimately reframing the debate around employment, skills and human capital from today’s focus on problems and challenges towards the opportunities for collaboration that fully leveraging the human capital potential residing in people’s skills and capacities can bring.