Global mobility of talent critical to economic growth: Report

Most economies need to import highly skilled professionals, technicians and managers
||Last Updated: 02/01/2011

Global mobility of talent is as critical to economic growth as global mobility of goods and financial capital, according to a report by the World Economic Forum in collaboration and the Boson Consulting Group (BCG).

To retain their growth momentum, most economies will need to import highly skilled professionals, technicians and managers, and act fast to develop and diversify their domestic talent bases.

"The global problem is no longer a mere talent mismatch. The scale of the predicted talent gap requires concerted action, starting with and going well beyond — removing barriers to the mobility of talent," said Piers Cumberlege, senior director and head of partnership at the World Economic Forum.

China will need to double its talent base by 2020 while Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States will need more immigration and better education to balance the loss of talent from aging workforces, said the report Global Talent Risk -- Seven Responses, which analyzes projected talent shortages by 2020 and 2030 in 25 countries, 13 industries and nine occupational clusters.

Industries and countries worldwide will require major increases of highly educated people in their workforces to sustain economic growth. Professionals will be in particularly high demand in the trade, transportation and communications industries in developing nations, said the report, compiled from recommendations of more than 100 experts and practitioners along the World Economic Forum’s global agenda council on skills and talent mobility. The organization also hosted a forum on talent mobility in Brussels, Doha, Davos-Klosters, Dubai, Montreal, New Delhi and New York in 2009 and 2010.

In the next two decades, demand for professionals in manufacturing will peak at more than 10 per cent in developing countries, exceeding four per cent across all countries sampled. Health-care research and development alone will generate enormous demand for skilled labour worldwide, said Global Talent Risk.

Employees without critical knowledge and technical skills will be left behind and, if left unaddressed, talent scarcity will become a threat to sustained growth, particularly in knowledge-based economies.

"Human capital has replaced financial capital as the engine of economic prosperity," said Hans-Paul Bürkner, BCG's president and chief executive officer.

The roots of the global talent risk include: the uneven quality of educational systems; erratic employability of workers in the Southern Hemisphere; and demographic changes in the Northern Hemisphere, with the mass retirement of baby boomers. In Canada, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S., expected immigration and birth rates will not offset the workforce losses caused by aging populations.

Today, foreign-born workers with university degrees or equivalent qualifications make up just two per cent of the European labour market, compared with 4.5 percent in the U.S. and nearly 10 per cent in Canada. Improved education and training must go hand in hand with increased labor migration, said the report.

Global Talent Risk proposed seven core responses to global talent risk:

• Introduce strategic workforce planning to address imbalances between labour supply and demand.

• Ease migration to attract the right talent globally.

• Foster "brain circulation" to mitigate brain drain.

• Increase employability by advancing technological literacy and cross-cultural learning skills.

• Develop a talent "trellis" by focusing on horizontal and vertical career and education paths.

• Encourage temporary and virtual mobility to access required skills easily.

• Extend the pool by tapping women, older professionals, the disadvantaged and immigrants.

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