SINGAPORE has come up tops in Asia for talent competitiveness this year, according to a global ranking by Swiss business school IMD.
Among the Asian economies in the IMD World Talent Ranking 2018, Singapore retained its position as 13th in the world, ahead of traditional rival Hong Kong which fell six spots to 18th. This was followed by Malaysia, which jumped six places to come in 22nd.
Taiwan was next in 27th place, Japan in 29th and South Korea in 33rd.
The ranking evaluated 63 economies from around the world in developing, attracting and retaining talent based on three factors: investment and development, appeal, and readiness. Singapore fared well in attracting highly skilled professionals from abroad, management remuneration and education outcomes, but it was dragged down by its investment in public education, where it ranked 60th.
The report found that Singapore invested 2.9 per cent of its gross domestic product on education, well below the 4.7 per cent average.
Arturo Bris, director of the IMD World Competitiveness Center, IMD Business School, told The Business Times: "One interesting question that arises is how Singapore achieves such a high level of achievement in the education system in terms of PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) scores when investment is so low?"
He highlighted that the Singapore education system is "very efficient" and is a "very good example on how to manage resources".
For example, the US has one of the highest investments in education - about twice as much as Singapore in terms of percentage of GDP - but the achievement of the average US student is much lower than the Singaporean student, said Mr Bris.
But despite this, he said that more can be done to invest in public education, which is still not high enough.
He noted that one of the keys to Singapore's success is its meritocratic education system, which rewards the best students and "pushes them towards excellence".
"Currently, if you look at the system, it performs very well… But the danger is that the lesser-performing students could be left behind, which leads to a greater level of inequality," he explained.
"If you compare with many of the European countries, there is so much investment in the education system that it preserves quality for everybody, even the lesser-performing ones."
He also noted that Singapore's physical and geographical constraints are one of the risk factors for the island state.
As a small country with limited land, Singapore ranked 58th for cost of living, which included housing prices. The same capacity constraints also affects labour force growth, in which Singapore also fared poorly - it came in at 54th place.
Overall, European countries mostly dominated the top 10 places, with Switzerland taking the crown for the fifth consecutive year. This was followed by Denmark, Norway, Austria and the Netherlands.
The annual survey compiles responses from over 6,000 executives based in 63 economies.