Analysis of countries’ strengths and weaknesses emphasizes need for strategic workforce planning for countries and organizations to drive business success

Talent, the economic potential of people, is one of the most critical drivers of growth in today’s global environment. A new Human Capital Report, developed by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Mercer, identifies the countries that are best positioned to contribute to effective workforce development, growth potential, and economic success.

The Report is based on the Human Capital Index, a ranking of 122 countries representing more than 90% of the world’s population. Each country was measured against 51 factors in four distinct categories: Education; Health and Wellness; Workforce and Employment; and Enabling Environment.

According to the Human Capital Index, countries in Northern and Western Europe account for eight of the ten top positions. Switzerland heads the overall global ranking followed by Finland (2), Netherlands (4), and Sweden (5). Singapore, which ranks in third place, and Canada (10) round out the list. To download the Human Capital Report and country ranking Index, visit

“For organizations looking to invest, consolidate, or grow operations internationally, effective workforce planning is essential to understanding talent as a strategic asset and maintaining a competitive business advantage,” said Pat Milligan, Region President at Mercer and member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Education and Skills. “With the Human Capital Index, employers can make country-specific decisions about their talent investments that will impact business growth and long-term success.”

According to Saadia Zahidi, Senior Director, Head of the Human Capital project at the World Economic Forum, “Some countries face an aged or ageing population, others face youth bulges, a few even face both. For some, this means confronting a major upcoming talent crunch, while for others it means developing mechanisms that allow it to realize their population’s potential rather than letting it develop into a burden. In this light, the Human Capital Index is a tool for understanding where countries stand today so that government and business can engage in workforce planning for the future.”

Rankings by region

Aside from those European countries in the top 10, France (21) and Spain (29) received high marks in Health and Wellness, but both countries did less well in their Workforce and Employment ratings. Regardless, both rank ahead of Italy (37), Greece (55), and Serbia (85).

In North America, the United States ranks 16 because of its strong workforce and ability to attract talent. Canada (10) ranks even higher because of its solid rating in Education, where it ranks second in the world. Among Latin American and Caribbean countries, Barbados (26) is the highest-ranked followed by Chile (36) and Panama (42). Mexico ranks 58.

Within Asia, Japan (15) ranks the next-highest after Singapore because of high marks in Health and Wellness and Workforce and Employment. These countries are followed by Malaysia (22) and Korea (23). Both China (43) and India (78) received lower marks in Health and Wellness and Education.

Among the Middle Eastern and African countries, Qatar (18) ranks the highest followed by UAE (24), Israel (25), and Saudi Arabia (39). Other countries ranking favorably include Mauritius (47), Botswana (79), and Kenya (81). Nigeria, a more populous country in Africa, ranks 114.

“As countries compete to attract talent on a global stage, the Human Capital Index will help to inform strategic workforce planning and policies that will ensure that countries and regions will have the right talent with the right skills to meet the future needs of employers,” said Rick Guzzo, PhD., Partner at Mercer and Co-Leader of the firm’s Workforce Sciences Institute.

Mercer has worked collaboratively with employers, governments, and academia to ensure workforce potential and drive economic growth. Identifying gaps in necessary skills helps reshape the nature of a specific workforce, compete more successfully for talent, and maintain positioning in global markets.