2021 Global Talent Competitiveness Index

The 2021 Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) report shows Switzerland, Singapore and the United States continue their strong lead in talent competitiveness.

Published by INSEAD and the Portulans Institute, this year’s rankings see European countries dominating the top positions with 17 of them in the top 25. One notable mention is France (19th), which enters the Top 20 this year with its highest position ever.

Outstanding non-European countries that make it into the top 25 are Australia (11th), Canada (13th), New Zealand (15th), Japan (20th), Israel (21st), and the United Arab Emirates (25th). ‘Latin America and the Caribbean’ region is for the first time represented in the top quartile by Chile (33rd), and China (37th) breaks into the top 40, its highest position ever.

The report finds that:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken organisations in ways that may become permanent features of tomorrow’s workplace. 

The accelerated adoption of collaborative tools have redefined the way in which individuals and teams could bring value to private businesses and public entities. Companies has redefined how they work. In that process, many opportunities have been offered to countries and cities to experiment with novel ways of attracting talent (e.g. digital nomads).

  • COVID-19 generated a series of shockwaves across the global talent landscape, which will have long term effects on labour markets.

The international mobility of talents has been redefined by the pandemic. For employees, new parameters emerged about when, where and for whom to work: as online tools opened new doors to better work-life balance and to ‘working from anywhere’, new inequalities surfaced between those who could contribute online, and those who had to be physically present at the workplace. 

  • Governments are back on centre stage, and recovery packages will have a significant importance in shaping labour markets and talent competition in the coming years.  

Governments are called to re-take centre stage, both by injecting financial resources to prevent a massive collapse of businesses and employment, and by designing specific legal and regulatory measures to protect their populations’ health and social cohesion. Fortunately, most public entities around the world reacted with rapidity and force. This allowed many companies to stay afloat financially, and to stay the course towards their strategic objectives, including in the talent area. The relatively rapid fashion in which major economies resumed growth is now even creating some employment scarcity in key sectors and activities.

  • In the emerging post-COVID economy, international inequalities have started to widen again.

Economies that cannot accelerate their digital transformation may quickly be left behind. The rapid increase of ‘digital divides’ however, is only one part of growing inequalities at the international level. Another finding of concern is the increasing divergence between rich and poor economies. The World Bank indicates that poverty has increased worldwide during the pandemic and that an additional 125 million people live with less than US$1.90 per day. UN data suggests that globally, jobs held by women are generally more threatened by COVID-related adjustments (including lay-offs) than the ones held by men. If these developments are not contained and swiftly reversed, they could further widen gaps in economic well-being as well as in equality, diversity and inclusion efforts that has made progression in recent years.  

  • In the post-COVID ‘new normal’, inequalities may grow among workers, depending on their sector of activity and their level of qualification.

In the ‘new normal’, inequalities may also grow among workers due to a likely ‘K-shaped recovery’, where workers employable in ‘recovery sectors’ such as technology, retail of software services would find more employment opportunities than those locked in other (often distressed) activities such as travel or entertainment. Innovation and agility can play a critical role in ‘redressing the lower branch of the K’.

Immense challenges loom ahead: preventing a growth of inequalities (and a resumption of poverty), offering enough opportunities for a massive upskilling and re-skilling of the work force, and maintaining social cohesion will not be among the easiest task of the coming years, and possibly decades.

  • There is, however, encouraging news on the global talent competitiveness scene, as a number of middle-income economies show significant progress and dynamism. 

China and Russia join the GTCI league of ‘talent champions’ (they were both among GTCI’s ‘talent movers’ last year). For the first time, a country from the Latin America and the Caribbean región (Chile) appears in the top quartile of the rankings. In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates remains the strongest talent champion, and offers innovative ways to attract and retain talents.

The eighth edition of the report titled, Talent Competitiveness in Times of COVID’, explores lessons learned during the pandemic, and offers insights into how governments, organisations, businesses and individuals can move forward. Managing talent is now a mainstream concern and talent performance seen as a critical factor to growth and prosperity.    

Felipe Monteiro, Academic Director of the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) and INSEAD Senior Affiliate Professor of Strategy, states: “It is now time to ‘think post-pandemic’. Jobs linked to digital transformation and the greening of most sectors (finance, energy to transport, manufacturing and agriculture) will be in high demand across geographies.” He adds, “Top-ranked Switzerland and Singapore are speeding up transitions to a sustainable, future-proof economy. Switzerland is strengthening its position as a leader in sustainable finance and Singapore is forging ahead with its ambitious “Green Plan 2030” and making headways in digital trade and green economy cooperation with China. These forward-looking nations are taking steps to build robust economies and societies.”  

Long term trends and analysis

In its third year of providing longitudinal analysis, GTCI data suggests that the gap between the most talent-competitive countries and the rest is widening. The policy implication is clear: stakeholders should take steps to ensure that the underlying dimensions of talent competitiveness are strengthened, especially for countries and those segments of the population already under pressure.

Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) 2021 – Top 20 Ranking

As in previous years, higher rankings are associated with higher income levels. Policies and practices that bring about talent competitiveness in more developed countries are less susceptible to political and socioeconomic fluctuations and these countries have the stability to invest in lifelong learning, reinforcing skills, and attracting and retaining global talent.  

2Singapore12United Kingdom
3United States of America13Canada
5Sweden15New Zealand

Global City Talent Competitiveness Index (GCTCI)2021 – Top 10 Ranking

Megalopolises are back on the talent scene as large cities (due mainly to their higher level of resources) adapted better to COVID-related challenges, which partly explain why they generally rank better in GCTCI than last year.

Top cities this year continue to be dominated by the US and Europe with San Francisco taking the top spot. Two other US cities, Boston and Seattle, make it into the top 10; while the remaining 7 are located in Europe (Geneva, Zurich, Luxembourg, Dublin, London, and Helsinki). Singapore is the only Asian city listed in the top 10.  

1San Francisco (United States)6Dublin (Ireland)
2Geneva (Switzerland)7Singapore (Singapore)
3Boston (United States)8Seattle (United States)
4Zurich (Switzerland)9London (United Kingdom)
5Luxembourg (Luxembourg)10Helsinki (Finland)

Bruno Lanvin, Distinguished Fellow at INSEAD and co-editor of the report, comments: “Altogether, cities around the world proved agile and imaginative in mobilising available talents to identify and implement solutions to unprecedented and complex situations.” He adds that, “Cities with distinctive features for future readiness tend to dominate the rankings. Capabilities in AI or advanced technologies (including fintech, healthtech and medtech) clearly favour the talent performance of cities such as San Francisco, Boston, and Singapore, and to a lesser but still significant extent that of Luxembourg, Geneva, Dublin, and Zurich.

For more information:
Download the full report 
Follow us on Twitter #GTCI for updates
Register and join the live launch event here at 13:00 CET, 19 October 2021.

About Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI)

The GTCI report is published annually by INSEAD, the Business School for the World, in partnership with Portulans Institute. The report is a comprehensive annual benchmarking report that measures how countries and cities grow, attract and retain talent. It provides a unique resource for decision makers to understand the global talent competitiveness picture and develop strategies for to boost their competitiveness. The 2021 report covers 134 countries and 155 cities from 75 economies around the world across all groups of income and levels of development.