The Human Capital Index 2017 ranks 130 countries on how well they are developing their human capital on a scale from 0 (worst) to 100 (best) across four thematic subindexes—Capacity, Deployment, Development and Know-how—and five distinct age groups or generations—0–14 years; 15–24 years; 25–54 years; 55–64 years; and 65 years and over—to capture the full human capital potential profile of a country. It can be used as a tool to assess progress within countries and points to opportunities for cross-country learning and exchange. The following section discusses global trends and high-level results for the 130 countries ranked by the Index. Detailed results for all 130 countries ranked by the Index are shown in Table 2 below. Please refer to the comprehensive Data Explorer tool.
Table 2: Global Human Capital Index 2017, detailed rankings
Between them, the 130 countries featured in this year’s edition of the Report make up 93% of the world’s population and contribute more than 95% of global gross domestic product (GDP). Yet, like the wider geographic regions in which they are located, these countries exhibit a broad range of overall success in developing their human capital. On average, the world has developed only 62% of its human capital as measured by this Index. Or, conversely, nations are neglecting or wasting, on average, 38% of their talent (Figure 2). At a regional level, the human capital development gap is smallest in North America and Western Europe, and largest in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. However, there are a wide variety of overall human capital outcomes within each region and across different aspects of human capital globally.
The Global Human Capital Index shows that all countries can do more to nurture and fully develop their human capital. Across the Index, there are only 25 nations that have tapped 70% of their people’s human capital or more. In addition to these 25 countries, 50 countries score between 60% and 70%. A further 41 countries score between 50% and 60%, while 14 countries remain below 50%, meaning these nations are currently leveraging less than half of their human capital.
Figure 2: Gap in human capital development, by region, 2017
The top ten of this year’s edition of the Global Human Capital Index is topped by smaller European countries—namely the Nordics and Switzerland—as well as strong placements by the United States and Germany among the world’s major economies. However, four countries from the East Asia and the Pacific region, three countries from the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region and one country from the Middle East and North Africa region are also ranked in the Index top 20 (Figure 3). Generally, Index leaders are high-income economies with a longstanding commitment to their people’s educational attainment, and that have placed correspondingly high importance on building their future human capital potential and deployed a broad share of their workforce in skill-intensive occupations across a broad range of sectors.
Figure 3: Gap in human capital development, by country, 2017
The top three nations are scoring a cut above the remainder of other leading countries in this year’s Index, with Norway (1) and Finland (2) almost drawing level and slightly ahead of Switzerland (3). All three countries are unique in the Index in having passed the threshold of developing more than 75% of their human capital against the theoretical ideal.
Norway (1) is the best-performing country in the world. While not taking the top spot for any individual component of human capital, the country is characterized by a consistently strong performance across all thematic dimensions of the Index—Capacity, Deployment, Development and Know-how—and across all age groups. It also ranks first in the world for the availability of skilled employees. While sharing similar strengths to its Nordic neighbours it outperforms them on the Deployment subindex, with a particularly low unemployment rate.
Finland (2) scores in almost a class of its own with regard to building future human capital potential, taking the top spot on the Development subindex due to the quality of its primary schools and overall education system, as well as high and diversified vocational and tertiary education enrolment. It also scores in the top ten on the Capacity and Know-how subindexes, with its older generations possessing some of the world’s highest attainment rates of tertiary education and almost half of the country’s workforce employed in high-skilled occupations. However, the country is not without challenges when it comes to its Deployment subindex, currently experiencing youth unemployment rates of more than 20%.
The top three is completed by Switzerland (3), which benefits from the high quality of its education system and staff training—ranking first in the world this year on both counts—as well as a strong rate of vocational training. Switzerland also ranks first overall on the Know-how subindex, with a very high share of skill-intensive employment and economic complexity. With regard to the Deployment subindex, a labour force gender gap persists across both its core working age and older generations.
The United States (4) enters the Index in fourth place—the highest-ranked country outside of Western Europe—scoring strongly on the Development subindex, due in particular to its younger generation’s high rates of enrolment in tertiary education and high skill diversity, a continuation of the high proportion of those who already attained tertiary education across the country’s older age groups. The nation’s success is more mixed across the Deployment subindex, for which comparatively low unemployment rates, on the one hand, are undermined by, on the other hand, somewhat high levels of inactivity among its core working-age population.
Denmark (5) and Sweden (8) share Norway’s consistently strong performance across all thematic dimensions, although with slightly less strong scores than the latter regarding optimization of their future human capital potential through the quality of their education systems. Sweden also performs particularly strongly on the Know-how subindex, ranking third globally on this aspect.
Similarly, Germany (6) is strongest on the Know-how subindex, supported by a balanced performance across the development and deployment themes. With an ageing population structure, the country disposes of highly educated older generations, although it has not been without challenges with regard to universalizing these successes to all segments of its population. New Zealand (7) and Slovenia (9) are the highest-ranked countries from the East Asia and the Pacific and Eastern Europe and Central Asia regions, respectively. The former is particularly successful with regard to building future human capital potential, scoring highly on the quality of its education system, while the latter performs well on the Capacity subindex, with highly educated older generations. This year’s top ten is rounded off by Austria (10), which benefits from its well-established vocational training system and the skill diversity of the nation’s graduates.