Jobs and the Future of Work

The 10 countries in Asia-Pacific that invest most in their people

Students use their hands to cover their heads during an earthquake drill at the Baclaran Elementary School Unit-1 in Paranaque city, metro Manila, Philippines

Image: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Till Leopold
Head, Inclusive Economies Practice, Centre for the New Economy and Society, World Economic Forum
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This year’s Human Capital Index covers 20 economies from Asia and the Pacific. The region scores in the upper mid-range of the 2016 results and is notable for its cross-generational progress. However, the gap between best performers and worst performers is especially high, reflecting the divergent development paths of countries in the region.

 Asia and Pacific: top 10 economies leveraging their human capital

On the one hand, over half of the countries in the region have achieved near-universal primary school enrolment; on the other hand, on average over 20% of the region’s under-15s are still not enrolled in secondary education.

Singapore has the highest proportion of high-skilled employment, at 55% of its workforce, compared to a regional average of 22%.

The region also includes five countries that are ranked in the global top 10 for the highest healthy life expectancy.

 Where is human capital maximized?

Japan's strong index performance reflects its long-term commitment to education across the generations, aided by the longevity and continued economic engagement of its elder population. However, the country is held back by relatively low labour force participation in the prime working age group (25-54), in particular due to the country’s employment gender gap. Only a small number of key economies ranked have youth unemployment rates in the single-digits – Japan is one of them.

The Republic of Korea is second globally when it comes to tertiary education enrolment. Compared to the other top performers in the Asia and the Pacific region, however, the country does not rank particularly well in employers’ estimation as to the ease of finding skilled employees – with a particular opportunity when it comes to creating more inclusive labour markets for women, youth and the older population.

The region’s largest economy and most populous country, China, scores near the overall and regional average. It ranks comparatively well on estimations of the ease of finding skilled employees, in its use of vocational education, and for its economic complexity, setting the country up well for the future.

Rounding off the upper midfield of the index is Indonesia, which has exhibited a rapid expansion of educational attainment similar to China across its younger age groups. Still, around one in three people in Indonesia consider themselves to be underemployed – willing and available to work additional hours but unable to do so under prevailing labour market conditions.

The World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Report can be found here.

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