Results by Region
Figures 2 through 7 display the range of regional scores overall and by Age Group pillar.
Asia and the Pacific
Asia and the Pacific, the world’s most populous region, scores towards the middle of the range of the Human Capital Index results, with an overall average score of 67.83. The gap between the best and worst performers in the Asia and the Pacific region is the second largest of any region, reflecting in part the different stages of development of the 22 countries from the region covered in the Index, but also the varying degrees of human capital outcomes even between countries with similar income. Scores for the region’s Under 15 Age Group pillar are much higher relative to other pillars, reflecting the region’s remarkable progress between generations.
The best performing countries in the region are Japan (5), New Zealand (9), and Australia (13), while Nepal (106), Myanmar (112), and Pakistan (113) rank the lowest. China (64) and Indonesia (69) score in the middle range of the Index while India (100) falls into the lower half of the region.
Over half of the countries in the region have achieved near-universal primary school enrolment rates yet, on average, over 20% of the region’s under 15 age group is not enrolled in secondary education. Among its 25–54 age group core working population, the average labour force participation rate is 81%. Lao PDR (105) has the highest rate, at 94%, while the Islamic Republic of Iran (80) has the lowest rate, at 56%. Singapore (24) has the highest proportion of high-skilled employment, at 54% of its workforce (2nd overall), with a regional average of 19%.
The region includes five countries that are ranked in the top 10 for the highest healthy life expectancy at birth. Despite this, labour force participation drops by more than 20 percentage points, on average, in transitioning from the 25–54 to the 55–64 Age Group pillar.
Japan (5), the best performer in the region, is part of the Human Capital Index’s top 10. It has achieved near-universal basic education and has a tertiary education attainment rate of over 50% for its working age population, ranking it first in the world. With the world’s highest aged-dependency ratio and second highest healthy life expectancy, there is greater potential to be tapped by closing the gender gap and tapping into the skills of the older workforce, particularly as labour force participation falls from 84% in the 25–54 Age Group to 69% for the 55–64 Age Group.
New Zealand (9) is the second best performer in the region and equally part of the Index overall top 10. It ranks first on the 55–64 Age Group pillar due to its high educational attainment and the age group’s active participation in the labour force. Australia (13) follows, with a strong performance on the 15–24 Age Group pillar due to high tertiary and vocational education enrolment rates. More than 90% of its employment share is in medium- and high-skilled occupations and less than 5% of youth are not in employment, education or training (5th overall).
The region’s top five is completed by Singapore (24) and the Republic of Korea (30), which ranks first in the world for its tertiary enrolment rate. Unlike for the other top performers in the region, however, business perceptions of the quality of its education system are comparatively low (63rd) and the country also ranks low in the ease of finding skilled employees and its labour force participation.
The Philippines (46), Mongolia (51), Malaysia (52), Thailand (57), Vietnam (59) and Sri Lanka (60) are next. China (64) ranks in the mid-range of the overall Index scores. Its younger population fares better than its 55–64 and 65 and over age groups as a result of increasing educational attainment in the population. Indonesia (69) trails China and follows a similar human capital profile across its age group pillars.
Next are Iran (80), Bhutan (87), Cambodia (97) and Bangladesh (99), followed by India (100). Although the latter’s educational attainment has improved markedly over the different age groups, its youth literacy rate is still only 90% (98th), well behind the rates of other emerging markets. India also ranks poorly on the labour force participation rate due to its large informal sector.
Lao PDR (105) and Nepal (106) are next. Both countries’ scores in the younger population are worse than for their elder generations due to low secondary school enrolment rates. Nepal, moreover, has the highest incidence of child labour in the region (107th overall), with one in three children affected. Myanmar (112) and Pakistan (113) rank at the bottom of the region as a result of their poor performance on educational outcomes throughout all the Age Group pillars.
Europe and Central Asia
Over 40 countries are covered from the Europe and Central Asia region. It ranks in second place globally, after North America. The region’s overall average score is 77.06. The region also ranks in second position on all five Age Group pillars. On the overall Index, the gap between the best and worst performers in the region tends to be smaller than for most other regions except Latin America. The region’s best performing countries, including Finland (1), Norway (2) and Switzerland (3) dominate the Index’s overall top 10, whereas the lowest performing countries are Albania (66), Turkey (68) and Moldova (71).
Most countries in the region are very close to having achieved universal primary school enrolment; however, some countries, such as Azerbaijan (63) and Romania (39), still lag behind. Four of the region’s countries are below the world average for their basic education survival rate: Malta (33), Spain (41), Germany (22) and Bulgaria (42). Macedonia (55) and Moldova (71) are still confronted with a double-digit incidence of child labour. The region is also performing below the world average for the 15–24 Age Group pillar on four indicators: Labour force participation rate, Unemployment rate, Long-term unemployment rate and Incidence of overeducation, highlighting the effects of the recent crisis.
Finland (1) is the best performing country in the region and on the Index overall. The country benefits from a well-educated young population with the second best basic education survival rate and the highest score for the quality of primary schools. Its 25–54 age group core working population shows the highest tertiary educational attainment rate in the Europe and Central Asia region but also second best overall in the world. Based on the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey, Finland is also the country with the overall highest score on the Ease of finding skilled employees indicator, with even its 55–64 age group possessing the world’s highest attainment rate of tertiary education, highlighting the continuing long-term benefits of past human capital investments. Norway (2) follows Finland in second place on the overall Index, possessing similar strengths and the lowest unemployment rate in the region for its 25–54 prime working age group. The top three is completed by Switzerland (3), which benefits from a very high quality of primary schools and of the education system as a whole, but also from a strong rate of vocational training and high level of skills diversity. Switzerland is the best performing country for Staff training services, second best for Economic complexity and third best for its High-skilled employment share.
Up next are Sweden (6), Denmark (7) and the Netherlands (8), followed by Belgium (10), Austria (11) and Ireland (12). France (14) follows, with a high youth unemployment rate (placing it 94th in the world) and a strong decrease in labour force participation from 88% to 48% between the 25–54 and 55–64 age ranges. Also placing well on the overall Index are Slovenia (15), Estonia (16) and Lithuania (18). The United Kingdom (19) exhibits a high tertiary attainment rate, at 33%, and high-skilled employment share, at 48%, for its 25–54 core working age group but is ranking 46th on the Incidence of overeducation and 67th on its Vocational enrolment rate, indicating that there might be room for improvement with regard to recognizing alternative education paths.
Next are Iceland (20), Luxembourg (21) and Germany (22). Germany ranks 43rd globally on Secondary education attainment but performs strongly on Skill diversity and is the second-placed country in the region on the Economic complexity indicator. It is followed by Latvia (23) and the Czech Republic (25). The Russian Federation (26) benefits from very high levels of primary, secondary and tertiary attainment across all of its age groups but also exhibits a low healthy life expectancy of 61 years, placing it 81st on the 55–64 Age Group pillar.
Cyprus (27) is then followed by Poland (28), Ukraine (31), Hungary (32), Malta (33) and the Slovak Republic (34). Italy (35) exhibits a low youth labour force participation rate (116th) and high youth unemployment rate (118th) for its 15–24 Age Group pillar, and scores poorly on the quality of its on-the-job staff training (116th). The country does, however, perform rather better on the secondary enrolment and basic education survival rates of its younger under 15 age group. It is followed by Croatia (36), Kazakhstan (37), Portugal (38) and Romania (39).
Greece (40) is affected by a high youth unemployment rate (123rd) but also a high level of unemployment among its 25–54 prime working age group and low perceptions of the quality of its education system (98th). On the plus side, it disposes of a well-educated older population with high tertiary attainment amongst its 55–64 age group as well as a high healthy life expectancy. Next is Spain (41), which shares the overall human capital profile of Italy and Greece and reports the highest 15–24 age group unemployment rate measured in the Index, at 57.9%, despite its very high level of skills diversity (6th).
Bulgaria (42), Armenia (43), the Kyrgyz Republic (44) and Serbia (50) rank in the lower half of the Europe and Central Asia region, followed by Macedonia, FYR (55), Azerbaijan (63), Tajikistan (65) and Albania (66). The bottom-ranked countries in the region are Moldova (71) and Turkey (68), which exhibits a low labour force participation rate for its 25–54 prime working age group despite strong tertiary and vocational enrolment rates among its 15–24 age group.
Latin America and the Caribbean
The 21 countries ranked by the Human Capital Index in the Latin America and the Caribbean region score in the middle range of the Index, together with the Asia and the Pacific region, with an overall average score of 66.46. However, scores for the region’s 65 and Over and 55–64 Age Group pillars tend to be much higher than for their peers in the Asia and the Pacific region, practically tied for the 25–54 age group, and the Asia and the Pacific region’s younger population is pulling ahead of Latin America and the Caribbean’s in its human capital performance. To some extent, this hints at the rise of Asia and some missed opportunities in the Latin America and the Caribbean region.
Overall, the gap between the best and worst performers in the region is much smaller than for any other region, and many countries in the region seem to share similar strengths and weaknesses. The best performing countries in the region are Chile (45), Uruguay (47) and Argentina (48). By contrast, Brazil (78) is somewhat lagging behind this top group in the lower half of the region, while the lowest ranks of the group are made up of the Central American nations, such as Honduras (96), and Venezuela (91).
Several countries in the region have not yet achieved universal primary school enrolment, while, on average, 20% of the region’s children do not finish basic education. On the plus side, there is no observable gender gap in education. Many countries in the region are facing high youth unemployment rates in the 15–24 age group. More positively, unemployment in the 25–54 core working age group tends to be in the single digits and high-skilled employment is in the range of 20%, although in several countries, such as Uruguay (47) and Brazil (78), businesses perceive it as rather difficult to find skilled employees. Labour force participation in the region begins to decline markedly for the 55–64 age group, while at the same time there is also a relatively large share of people in the 65 and over age group that continue to work past their countries’ years of healthy life expectancy, indicating some challenges with the region’s social welfare net, which are also confirmed by business perceptions.
As the top-ranked country in the region, Chile (45) benefits significantly from a well-educated and healthy older population that remains economically active well into the age of 55–64, compared to other countries in the region. Its 25–54 prime working age group also boasts the highest tertiary education attainment rate in Latin America (10th overall), with one in three people in this age group having completed university. In line with this, Chile’s 15–24 age group continues to have a very high university enrolment rate (17th), with a diverse range of subjects studied. To a slightly lesser extent, Uruguay (47) and Argentina (48), the other top performers in the region, share most of the former’s strengths. All three countries, however, also exhibit a high unemployment rate in the 15–24 age group.
Up next are Panama (49), Costa Rica (53) and Mexico (58), which ranks among the better-performing countries in the region, although with some distance behind the top group. This is mostly due to a relatively less well-educated population across all age pillars. More positively, Mexico reports a relatively low level of unemployment, including among its youth. It is followed by Peru (61) and Colombia (62), which performs particularly well when it comes to the educational attainment and tertiary and vocational enrolment of its 15–24 age group. However, it also exhibits a big skills mismatch, with one in three 15–24 year-old Colombians currently classified as overeducated for their work.
Colombia is followed by a batch of countries scoring in close proximity of each other: Trinidad and Tobago (67), El Salvador (70), Bolivia (73), Jamaica (74), Paraguay (75) and Barbados (77). Brazil (78), the region’s economic giant, ranks in the lower half of the Latin American region, with a poor performance on the basic education survival rate (91st) and quality of primary education (109th) for its under 15 age group in particular. Brazil scores fairly high on the quality of its on-the-job staff training and a low unemployment rate for its core 25–54 and older age groups.
The lower-ranked half of the region is composed of Guyana (79), the Dominican Republic (81), Guatemala (86) and Nicaragua (90), with the bottom ranks in the Latin American region occupied by Venezuela (91) and by the Central American nation of Honduras (96), where incomplete primary education and child labour remain a problem.
Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East and North Africa region comprises 12 countries that had enough data for coverage in the Index. Out of these, only three—Israel (29), the United Arab Emirates (54) and Qatar (56)—make it into the upper half of ranked countries in the Human Capital Index. It is also one of the most disparate regions in the Index, spanning three income group levels and ranging from age group averages in line with other high-income economies in Europe and elsewhere to those more in line with the worst-performing countries in the Sub-Saharan African region. Kuwait (93) and Saudi Arabia (85), whose GDP per capita is at least fivefold higher, perform at a comparable level to Morocco (95) and Egypt (84), respectively, highlighting that economic performance alone is an inadequate measure of countries’ ability to successfully leverage their human capital endowment. While the region’s overall average score of 60.50 masks significant differences in countries’ human capital performance, it also points to opportunities to learn from each other across the region.
Several critical issues plague the under 15 age groups in certain countries in the Middle East and North Africa region. While many countries perform well in primary school enrolment, this is not the case for Mauritania (122) and Yemen (124), at 73% and 88%, respectively. Additionally, gender gaps in secondary school participation and high incidence of child labour in certain countries of the region risk leaving a lasting impact on the workforce of the next generation. Youth unemployment continues to be widespread among the 15–24 age group in the region, reaching its highest levels at 42% in Egypt (84) and 31% in Tunisia (98). Additionally, due to low rates of female participation, the region’s 25–54 age group exhibits some of the lowest labour force participation rates in the Index, with eight out of the 12 countries in the region recording a prime working age participation rate of less than 80%.
Israel (29) benefits from a high tertiary attainment rate amongst its 25–54 age group core working population, resulting in a significant high-skilled employment share of 49.7% (4th overall) and a relative perceived ease of finding skilled employees. While among the lowest in the region, the country’s rate of unemployment for the 15–24 age group is at 11% and its share of youth not in employment, education or training is also relatively high, at 15.7%.
The United Arab Emirates (54) and Qatar (56) benefit significantly from the strong perceived quality of their primary schools (13th and 9th overall, respectively) and overall education systems (9th and 3rd, respectively), but also report some of the lowest tertiary and vocational enrolment rates among their 15–24 age groups in the Index. Jordan (76) boasts one the highest shares of high-skilled employment in the region, at nearly one-third (37th overall), however, it simultaneously exhibits a very high rate of undereducation, more than 40%, among its 15–24 age group. The country is ranked 3rd in having one of the most diversified pool of skills amongst its tertiary graduates but also records high unemployment of nearly 29% amongst the same group. It also shows a significant employment gender gap on its 25–54 Age Group pillar.
Up next are Egypt (84) and Saudi Arabia (85), the region’s two most populous economies ranked in the Index. While Egypt ranks somewhat better on its older 55–64 and 65 and Over Age Group pillars, the quality of Saudi Arabia’s education system is perceived as much better than Egypt’s, which ranks second to last overall on this indicator. Both countries suffer from high youth unemployment rates and also have high employment gender gaps, pointing to these countries’ additional untapped human capital potential. They are followed by Kuwait (93).
The three North African countries Morocco (95), Tunisia (98) and Algeria (114) share many of the same strengths and weaknesses. In particular, their 15–24 age groups display a high level of skill diversity, while at the same time recording high unemployment rates and low tertiary and vocational enrolment. Mauritania (122) and Yemen (124) have the weakest human capital performance in the region with consistently low education outcomes across all Age Group pillars and high rates of child labour.
Boasting an average score of 81.26, the North America region is the strongest regional performer on the Human Capital Index, with Canada (4) ranking in the top five overall performers. The United States (17) lags behind its northern neighbour on the Under 15 Age Group pillar, revealing relative weaknesses in primary and secondary enrolment rates and the quality of primary education. However, the United States also records an impressive tertiary enrolment rate (2nd overall). In both Canada and the United States this trend is a continuation of the high proportion of those who have already attained tertiary education across the older age groups.
In both countries, more than 40% of the 25–54 age group is employed in high-skilled occupations (ranking 16th and 21st, respectively), with the United States (17) trumping Canada (4) in economic complexity by leveraging more sophisticated knowledge and skills. Despite strong results in education outcomes, labour force participation indicators across all Age Group pillars rank in the middle range of the Index. However, with a 65 and over age group labour force participation rate of 13% and 18%, respectively, and a healthy life expectancy above 70, the region allows for those who choose to remain active to do so, pointing to a high-skilled and productive ‘silver’ workforce in both countries.
The Sub-Saharan Africa region, with an overall average score of 54.46, ranks lowest compared to other regions, demonstrating the same pattern across all age groups except for the 65 and over age group, in which it performs marginally better than the Middle East and North Africa region. The region has a high labour force participation in this age group, with all but two countries ranked in the top 30. Given the age group’s low educational attainment and a healthy life expectancy at birth below 60 years for all countries in the region except Mauritius, this almost certainly reflects activity due to economic necessity and lack of an adequate welfare or pension system. Before discounting this observation as a negative however, it should be noted that this older generation nevertheless continues to provide its younger peers with its knowledge and experience as well as financial support.
The Index covers 24 countries from this region, of which four are from the upper-middle income group, seven from the lower-middle income group and the remaining 13 from the low-income group. Overall, the regional spread is high, with the top performers in the region—Mauritius (72), followed by Ghana (82) and Zambia (83)—achieving a “distance to the ideal” score that places them ahead of the Middle East and North Africa average, and on a par with the lower half of the Latin American and Asia and the Pacific region. Nigeria (120), Burundi (121) and Chad (123) are the lowest performers in the region.
Mauritius (72) enters the Index as the highest ranking country in the region, boasting high enrolment rates for primary, secondary and tertiary education. Based on business perceptions in the country, the quality of its education system is rated highly (36th overall). In tertiary education, however, more than 58% of recent graduates hail from a single field of study (Social sciences, business and law) leading to a poor performance on the Skill diversity indicator (92nd).
Ghana (82) and Zambia (83) are similarly ranked across the Under 15 and 65 and Over Age Group pillars. Both countries still have room for improvement in the primary school enrolment rate and even more so with regard to Ghana’s 33% and Zambia’s 40% incidence of child labour—some of the worst in the region and globally. In the 15–24 age group, Ghana outperforms Zambia on the Learning indicators; however, in the 25–54 age group, Zambia scores better on educational attainment rates. This highlights Ghana’s improved education attainment in its younger generation. It is also worth noting that Ghana has the overall second highest level of medium-skilled employment. Next is Botswana (88), followed by Cameroon (89).
South Africa (92), the second largest economy in the region, benefits from good primary and secondary enrolment rates and gender parity in its secondary enrolment. In the region, the country has the highest share of its workforce in high-skilled occupations (48th overall). However, medium-skilled employment is relatively low (105th overall). Based on business executives’ perceptions in the country, South Africa is ranked 114th for its ease of finding skilled employees. It is followed by Namibia (94).
Up next are the East African nations of Kenya (101), Uganda (102) and Tanzania (103), which are practically tied. With a very low NEET rate as well as low tertiary and vocational enrolment, the majority of Uganda’s 15–24 age group has an early start into the workforce, having a relatively high labour force participation rate. The possible downside to this is indicated by the country’s 72% incidence of undereducation, the second highest measured in the sample. At 84%, Tanzania’s under 15 age group has some way to go in obtaining universal primary school enrolment and currently more than two out of five children that are in school do not finish lower secondary education. It is also estimated that there is a 21% incidence of child labour in the country.
Madagascar (104), Lesotho (107) and Rwanda (108) come next in the Index, followed by Mozambique (109), Malawi (110) and Senegal (111). Ethiopia (115), similar to Tanzania, suffers from low primary school enrolment rates, a low survival rate for basic education and high levels of child labour. The country has high participation in the workforce with single digit unemployment rates across all Age Group pillars, although also recording very high underemployment rates. Employment, similar to other countries in the region, tends to be lower-skilled in nature.
Burkina Faso (116), Côte d’Ivoire (117), Mali (118) and Guinea (119) follow. Nigeria (120), the largest economy and most populous country in the region, has the second lowest primary school enrolment rate globally and a high incidence of child labour. At 15%, the tertiary attainment rate (63rd overall) of its 25–54 age group is a relative highlight, as are the business perceptions of the quality of its staff training services (43rd).
Second from last in the region is Burundi (121) and at the very bottom of the region—and second from last worldwide—is Chad (123). Chad has the lowest rankings in the Index on the Under 15 and 15–24 Age Group pillars; its highest ranking, 120th place, is on the 65 and Over Age Group pillar.