A country’s human capital — the talent and productivity of its workers — is essential to its economic success. Companies aren’t likely to succeed if they can’t get the people they need.
In a new report ranking countries around the globe on their workers’ potential, the World Economic Forum argues that the health of a nation’s workforce “can be a more important determinant of its long-term economic success than virtually any other resource.”
The United States, despite having the world’s largest economy, actually doesn’t come in very high, at 16th place. While America excels at attracting and retaining great talent, it ranks 43rd in the health and wellness category, driven by high levels of stress and depression.
The top spots are reserved for countries with superior health care, education, and training, many of which are clustered in Europe and Scandinavia in particular.
The rankings are based on four factors: education, health, workforce, and enabling environment. Education measures the quality of schools and the achievement of students to get a sense of how both current and future workers have been educated. Health measures physical and mental well-being from childhood through old age.
The workforce ranking attempts to measure the “experience, talent, knowledge, and training” of a country’s population. Enabling environment is a measure of the legal framework, infrastructure, and other systems that help countries, companies, and people use their talent to its fullest potential.
Here are the 10 countries with the best workers, based on all of those factors:
Ranks 2nd for education, 20th for health, 15th for its workforce, and 17th for enabling environment.
Canada’s extremely high education score goes a long way toward pushing the country past lesser scores elsewhere. It’s behind only Finland, and has the world’s highest levels of citizens with tertiary degrees.
Ranks 18th for education, 3rd for health, 12th for its workforce, and 11th for enabling environment.
Denmark’s particular strength is its health-care system. The people who live there have the second-lowest percentage of unhealthy years throughout their lives, as well as one of the lowest rates of depression and communicable diseases.
8. The United Kingdom
Ranks 10th for education, 17th for health, 10th for its workforce, and 7th for enabling environment.
The U.K. doesn’t particularly excel at any point but has succeeded in doing pretty well across categories, and maintaining a particularly friendly environment for businesses and their employees.
Ranks 15th for education, 6th for health, 5th for its workforce, and 8th for enabling environment.
Both Norway’s health-care system and workforce are world-class. In particular, it has one of the world’s lowest gender gaps, a proven ability to attract and retain talent, and a vibrant scientific community.
Ranks 19th for education, 8th for health, 9th for its workforce, and 3rd for enabling environment.
Germany weathered the European Union’s economic crisis better than just about any other nation for a reason; it has one of the strongest infrastructures and workforces in the world.
Ranks 14th for education, 2nd for health, 6th for its workforce, and 10th for enabling environment.
Sweden comes out near the top in almost every health-care measure from infant mortality to water quality, and has a highly educated and talented workforce as well.
4. The Netherlands
Ranks 7th for education, 4th for health, 8th for its workforce, and 4th for enabling environment.
The Netherlands might be famous for its permissive capital, but it also has world-class health care, education, and infrastructure.
Ranks 3rd for education, 13th for health, 2nd for its workforce, and 5th for enabling environment.
Singapore has an incredibly rigorous education system, which helps produce a workforce that’s among the most competitive in the world. The business environment attracts talent from all over the globe as well.
Ranks 1st for education, 9th for health, 3rd for its workforce, and 1st for enabling environment.
While it might be most famous for its world-class and unorthodox education system, Finland also has an excellent infrastructure, skilled employees, and the world’s greatest rate of social mobility.
Ranks 4th for education, 1st for health, 1st for its workforce, and 2nd for enabling environment.
It’s worth noting that the World Economic Forum is based in Switzerland, but based on empirical metrics like employee training, talent retention, scientific output, and productivity, the country wins out.
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