South Africa’s ability to nurture human capital ranks 92 out of 124 countries according to research by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
This makes South Africa the sixth highest placed country in Africa with the top three countries being Mauritius (72), Ghana (82) and Zambia (83). It is the second lowest in the BRICS grouping with India in the last position.
The Human Capital Report is based on a measurement of how far any given country is from optimizing its talent across five different age groups – enabling a full demographic profile to be built up and providing unique insights on how best to help people fulfil their professional potential.
The report is the only body of work worldwide that seeks to measure a country’s success nurturing, developing and deploying their greatest asset - its people.
According to the findings, South Africa suffers in two key age groups – the youth (15-24) where it is held back by low labour participation (121st) and high unemployment (122nd) – and the over 65 bracket.
About one third of children that should be in secondary school are still not making it there. The quality of schooling is still ranked very low and this shows up in the labour market.
"Business leaders are consistently saying they are not finding the high-skilled talent that they need, they are not saying they don't have the job," said Saadia Zahidi who is the senior director of gender parity, human capital and constituents at WEF.
On a positive note, the country does well in the 25-54 age group, scoring 17th for staff training services and 55th for the sophistication of on the job training. It also scores 48th in terms of high skilled workers as a proportion of the population, demonstrating that pockets of excellence in the economy do exist.
On the premise of the research, Zahidi said, "It's a relative ranking and it is really telling countries how to compare themselves to an ideal."
WEF aims to show where the gaps are so there may be better interventions to close them. The forum recommends that there has to be better involvement of business in formal education.
Finland ranked number one in the index having developed 86 per cent of its human potential.
When it comes to pricing talent, the report believes that fulfilling people’s potential could boost global GDP by 20 per cent.
“When it comes to developing people’s talent and helping them reach their full potential, the concept of a world where where no one is left behind remains a distant prospect," according to the report.
Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of WEF, said, “Talent, not capital, will be the key factor linking innovation, competitiveness and growth in the 21st century."