S'pore workforce ranked 10th in proficiency

SMRT staff working at the Bishan depot. Singapore's workforce improved by six places in the annual study by Swiss business school IMD. The rise was mainly due to a better perception of the workforce by executives, said Professor Arturo Bris, director
SMRT staff working at the Bishan depot. Singapore's workforce improved by six places in the annual study by Swiss business school IMD. The rise was mainly due to a better perception of the workforce by executives, said Professor Arturo Bris, director of IMD's World Competitiveness Centre.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Singapore's workforce is the 10th most proficient in the world, according to a new study by Swiss business school IMD.

The annual study, which aims to measure how ready workers in a country are to perform in the job market, factored in 20 years' worth of competitiveness-related data and surveyed around 4,000 executives in the 61 countries studied.

Switzerland topped the rankings - as it did last year - followed by Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and the Netherlands.

Singapore was also the highest placed of any Asian nation and showed a big improvement from last year, when it was ranked 16th overall. The United States was 14th, Britain was 21st and China 40th.

Rankings were based on three main categories - education, appeal of the country to talent, and how work-ready people are.

The education category, which was measured mainly by how much is invested in it, was Singapore's worst performing area, where it ranked 29th.

It was noted that Singapore invests a relatively small amount of GDP in public education, with a ranking of 56 in this area.

The second category measured the extent life in the country appeals to talented individuals. Singapore was placed 18th.

The last factor - how well workers have been prepared by the education system and on-the-job development to carry out their tasks - was Singapore's strength, earning it second place globally.

Singapore's six-place improvement over last year was mainly due to a better perception of the workforce, said Professor Arturo Bris, director of IMD's World Competitiveness Centre.

More of these executives felt the workforce was well trained and that the education system met the needs of the economy, he noted.

"The biggest improvement in (the ranking of) Singapore happened because the impression, the sentiment, among executives has become more positive about these issues." Prof Bris said he could not attribute the improved ranking of Singapore to massive educational reform or a marked improvement in the hard economic data the study considered.

"So it may be shaping of public opinion influenced by government policy or just pure sentiment, but we haven't seen any real, hard indicator that has improved," he said.

Life here had become less appealing to skilled labour in some areas, he added, with surveys reflecting that the quality of life had fallen while the cost of living had risen.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2015, with the headline 'S'pore workforce ranked 10th in proficiency'. Print Edition | Subscribe