S'pore doing well in human capital: World Bank report

The World Bank had in October 2018 released an index that ranked Singapore first out of 157 countries in terms of developing human capital.
The World Bank had in October 2018 released an index that ranked Singapore first out of 157 countries in terms of developing human capital.PHOTO: ST FILE

Employment in Republic remains high despite its robot density being among world's highest

Singapore is generally doing well in investing in human capital and is well positioned to deal with the changing nature of work, experts and the World Bank said.

The remarks were made at a forum at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy yesterday where experts and policymakers discussed the findings of the World Development Report 2019: The Changing Nature Of Work released by the World Bank.

In the report, the World Bank noted that although there were concerns that technology would replace jobs, new platforms will create employment opportunities in fresh areas. "Robot density per worker in 2018 is the highest in Germany, Korea and Singapore. Yet in all of these countries, despite the high prevalence of robots, the employment rate remains high," it said.

"Innovation brings new employment in new sectors and innovation will win over automation. These are not the same jobs, but jobs that have higher productivity," said World Bank senior director for social protection and jobs Michal Rutkowski.

He said new platforms such as Grab expand job opportunities and Singapore is able to take on these changes.

"Singapore's human capital has foundational skills because of the education for those under the age of 18. It also has a deliberate and creative approach to skills. It has good reason to be optimistic," he added.

In terms of education, Singapore students scored 581 on a scale where 625 represents advanced attainment and 300 represents the minimum. A score of about 400 corresponds to a benchmark of minimum proficiency set by the influential Programme for International Student Assessment.

The report said: "Less than half of students in developing countries meet this standard, compared with 86 per cent in advanced economies. In Singapore, 98 per cent of students reach the international benchmark for basic proficiency in secondary school."

The latest report comes on the back of the World Bank index released in October that ranked Singapore first out of 157 countries in terms of developing human capital.

The index showed that children born today in Singapore will fulfil 88 per cent of their potential to be productive when they grow up, given that they get a full education and enjoy good health. It used indicators such as the probability of survival to age five, a child's expected years of schooling, test scores, adult survival rate and the stunting rate among children. Singapore was ranked ahead of South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Finland.

However, experts added that more needs to be done to get Singapore's human capital ready for the new digital workforce.

Dr Michael Fung, deputy chief executive of SkillsFuture Singapore, said: "We are looking at skill cycles that are getting shorter. The skills needed six months later will be different from (those) now. We (need) to make our systems more adaptive and agile and this requires extensive involvement of the industry and the individual."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore doing well in human capital: World Bank report'. Print Edition | Subscribe