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How Australia fell from 4th to ranking 18th in global talent competitiveness since 2020

The results of the 2023 IMD World Talent Ranking (WTR) indicate that the long-lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are playing a determining role in the talent competitiveness landscape.

The International Institute for Management Development (IMD) has just released its 2023 World Talent Ranking (WTR) which examines how 64 nations rank in terms of the global talent competitiveness landscape.

Globally, Australia ranked 18th overall, a disappointing result considering back in 2020 Australia ranked 4th globally and has since suffered a significant decline in our overall talent ranking since the disruptions caused by Covid.

Australian key findings include:

  • In APAC, Australia was ranked 3rd, with Hong Kong ranking 2nd and Singapore taking 1st position
  • In terms of its “appeal” (which evaluates the ability to attract and retain talent from both international and domestic markets) – Australia ranked 13th globally, the highest ranking within APAC
  • In terms of strengths, the report highlighted that:
    • Australia ranked 3rd globally for its high minimum wage
    • Australia ranked 10th globally for quality of life
    • Australia ranked 12th globally for its attractiveness to highly skilled foreign personnel
  • In terms of weaknesses, the report identified:
    • Australia ranked 57th globally on personal income tax
    • Australia ranked 47th globally on employee training

On the one hand, the widespread adoption of remote and hybrid work has implications for how career progression is perceived: 27% of the more than 4,000 executives surveyed for the WTR assert that remote work, whether full-time or part-time, is detrimental to career development in their company.

Notably, the economies in which remote work is considered less harmful for career development are, on average, also those that excel in the attraction and retention of highly skilled professionals as well as in the levels of female participation in the job market (see figures 1 and 2 below).

“This year’s rankings also show that as economies become more service-oriented – a transformation process that has also reached China (41st) and India (56th) – the physical presence of employees in the country of their employers is no longer needed. All in all, we observe the emergence of a new type of employee that has been educated in one country, lives in another, and works for a company located in a third country,” explains Professor Arturo Bris, Director of IMD’s World Competitiveness Center (WCC), which produces the WTR.


Additionally, the study shows that most regions have not been able to return to pre-pandemic levels of talent competitiveness (see figure 3) – a situation that has led to greater talent competitiveness parity between certain regions (e.g., the average talent ranking of countries in Southern Asia and Eastern Europe got closer between 2019 and 2023) while increasing the disparities experienced by other regions (e.g., South America, which had already been lagging in comparison to other regions and has seen that gap increase).

Switzerland has continued its worldwide talent competitiveness dominance, remaining in the top position of the WTR since its inception in 2014. Luxembourg moved up to second place, while Iceland retained the third spot. Sweden experienced a considerable downfall – from second to 10th position – while Belgium (fourth) and Singapore (eighth) have both moved back into the top 10 (see table 1).

“Adapting education systems to the needs of economic systems remains one of the big challenges of talent competitiveness. The ‘winners’ in our ranking are also the countries that emphasize professional training and apprenticeships over general academic subjects. We do not recommend one versus the other, but the economic trade-offs of either choice are relevant,” says Arturo Bris. 

The 2023 WTR studied 64 economies – including Kuwait for the first time – by quantifying 31 criteria that involve both hard data and survey responses from executives. IMD is a pioneer in the study of global talent competitiveness and the results of the WTR are used perennially by policymakers around the world.

Each criterion was then organized into three factors: Investment and Development, which considers the domestic resources committed to cultivating homegrown talent; Appeal, which evaluates the ability to attract and retain talent from both international and domestic markets; and Readiness, which quantifies the quality of the available skills and competencies in the talent pool.



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