SINGAPORE is ranked only 16th in the world when it comes to talent competitiveness, due to its imbalance in optimising homegrown talent and attracting those from overseas.
According to IMD's latest annual World Talent Report, this disparity has pushed Singapore out of the top 10 rankings (view infographic). It placed 17th last year - a far cry from its 2nd position in 2008, and its 10th position in 2005 (when the rankings were first compiled).
This year, IMD's World Talent Ranking is led by Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Finland and Malaysia.
Findings show that Singapore does not fare so well in the investment and development of homegrown talent, and has the highest cost of living among 2014's sample of 60 countries.
And unlike countries such as Switzerland - which achieve a "positive balance" between investing and developing local talent, and the ability to attract and retain overseas talent - Singapore's results show a "fair degree of imbalance between the criteria covering the homegrown talent pipeline, and the ability of the country to attract overseas talent". "The county thus fluctuates in and out of the top 10 talent ranking during the period under study," said IMD.
In contrast, IMD said of Singapore's neighbour: "(Malaysia) shows that a strategy aiming at improving both the homegrown and overseas talents has a positive impact on the country's performance in the overall talent ranking."
Malaysia has steadily improved its position on the overall world ranking talent from 20th place in 2005 to the No 6 in 2010 and now No 5. It raised its scores in employee training criterion, the availability of skilled labour, and access to finance skills. At the senior management level, Malaysia improved in international experience.
The Switzerland-based business school's rankings reflect three key factors: a country's investment in and development of its homegrown talent, its ability to retain local talent and attract those from overseas, and its readiness to fulfil market demands with the available talent pool.
While some of the 20-plus indicators measured are statistical, others are drawn from an IMD opinion survey of 4,300 international executives.
As for Singapore, IMD said, the country's scores in the investment and development factor "seem low". For one, total public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP is just 3 per cent - the second lowest of all countries measured - compared to 8 per cent in top-ranked Iceland and Israel, and 5.8 per cent in Malaysia.
It also places out of the top 10 for the implementation of apprenticeship programmes and the prioritisation of employee training, with "somewhat low" scores compared to countries such as Denmark and Germany.
And while its ability to attract foreign talent is high - it ranks third on that measure - so is its cost of living. In fact, it is the most expensive country in the sample in 2014. Said IMD: "The country's scores in the investment and development factor seem low and cost of living is high - suggesting that Singapore currently has a large pool of talent that it has nurtured and attracted, but that this pool may shrink slightly in the future."
On the bright side, however, Singapore is at the very top when it comes to fulfilling market demand with the available talent pool. Its scores are consistently high for the educational system, science in schools, university education, and management education criteria.
Despite its fluctuating performance, Singapore was still identified as one of the most talent-competitive countries - defined as those that ranked in the top 10 for five or more years from 2005 to 2014. It reached the top 10 in six of these 10 years, and was second in 2008.
Canada, Denmark and Switzerland are the only countries ranked in the top 10 every year from 2005 to 2014, while the Netherlands dropped out of the top 10 just once, in 2006.
IMD said: "The fluctuation in the overall ranking experienced by some of these countries throughout the period may be the result of cyclical economic and socio-political issues that impact, for example, immigration policies and/or investment in education. In some cases, such policies could result in the diminishing ability of countries to attract overseas talent despite strong commitment to local talent development."