Negative perceptions affect SA’s ability to attract and retain skills

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The decline in appeal is mainly the result of a negative turn in the perceptions about the private sector’s prioritisation of attracting highly skilled foreign personnel. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images
The decline in appeal is mainly the result of a negative turn in the perceptions about the private sector’s prioritisation of attracting highly skilled foreign personnel. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images

How does South Africa fare against the rest of the world when it comes to developing, attracting and retaining highly skilled professionals? Not too well, if the IMD World Talent Ranking is anything to go by.

The 2018 edition of one of the world’s foremost report on the quality of international workforces has been released, with Western Europe dominating the top 10.

South Africa came in at 50, performing better than India (53) and Brazil (58) but lagging behind China (39) and Russia (46).

The IMD’s fifth edition of the World Talent Ranking 2018 assesses the extent to which countries develop, attract and retain talent to sustain the pool that enterprises employ to create long-term value.

Switzerland leads the 2018 ranking, and Canada is the only non-European nation in the top 10.

Top 10

1. Switzerland

2. Denmark

3. Norway

4. Austria

5. The Netherlands

6. Canada

7. Finland

8. Sweden

9. Luxembourg

10. Germany

The Slovak Republic (59), Colombia (60), Mexico (61), Mongolia (62), and Venezuela (63) are the last countries in the ranking.

“Since 2014, the talent ranking assesses how the 63 economies we study develop, attract and retain highly skilled professionals. Cultivating a skilled and educated workforce is crucial to strengthening competitiveness and achieving long-term prosperity, particularly in the current dynamic landscape where artificial intelligence, robotics and other new technologies constantly redefine the challenges that governments, businesses and society in general will have to face in the future,” said Arturo Bris, director of the IMD World Competitiveness Center.

“This year the most successful countries in talent competitiveness are mainly European, mid-size economies. Moreover, these countries share high levels of investment in education and quality of life,” said Bris.

The assessment is based on three factors: investment and development, appeal, and readiness. These factors include indicators that capture the resources invested in developing local talent, the extent to which a country attracts and retains talent, and the quality of skills available in the talent pool.

Hard data and responses to the IMD executive opinion survey are used to produce the ranking. The latter annual survey compiles input from over 6000 executives based in 63 different economies.

How SA measures up

At the factor level, South Africa ranks 56th in investment and development (up from 57th), 37th in appeal (slight decrease from 35th) and 51st in readiness (an increase from 52nd).

“The improvement in investment and development can be primarily understood by the country’s performance in the female labour force indicator (up 13 places to 23rd),” says the report.

“The decline in appeal is mainly the result of a negative turn in the perceptions about the private sector’s prioritisation of attracting highly skilled foreign personnel (38th from 31st). Readiness improves principally on the back of increases in the perceptions about the effectiveness of the education system (52nd from 60th) and university education (41st from 48th) as well as the prioritisation of science in schools (53rd from 60th).”

Strengths

South Africa’s strengths are in total expenditure on education, in which it increases one spot, to third, the cost-of-living index (first), the personal income tax rate (third), and labour force growth (22nd).

Weaknesses

Its main weaknesses are in the pupil-teacher ratio in both primary (62nd) and secondary education (61st), implementation of apprenticeships (61st), worker motivation (60th), remuneration of managers (58th), and the availability of skilled labour (58th).

Beyond the above weaknesses, other indicators that may also help us understand the country’s low ranks are health infrastructure (50th), brain drain (55th), personal security and private property rights (52nd), availability of senior managers with significant international experience (56th), and availability of competent senior managers (53rd).

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