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Talent gap for 20 major economies to hit 85m workers

Singapore will lack 1m skilled workers by 2030; a shortfall that will work out to revenue losses of US$106.8 billion annually, says new study

Singapore is short of more than 1 million skilled workers - a gap that could translate into revenue losses of US$106.8 billion annually by 2030, according to a new study.


SINGAPORE is short of more than 1 million skilled workers - a gap that could translate into revenue losses of US$106.8 billion annually by 2030, according to a new study.

The study by human resources firm Korn Ferry sought to uncover the extent of the talent shortfall in 20 major economies at three milestones: 2020, 2025 and 2030.

The report, which estimated the gap between future labour supply and demand, zoomed in on three knowledge-intensive sectors: financial and business services; technology, media and telecommunications (TMT); and manufacturing.

By 2030, the report's authors expect a talent deficit of 85.2 million workers across the economies analysed - greater than the current population of Germany.

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This global skills shortage could result in US$8.45 trillion in unrealised annual revenue by 2030 - equivalent to the combined gross domestic product of Germany and Japan.

In the region, China will feel the talent shortage most acutely, the report found. The country could lose out on US$1.43 trillion in annual revenue by 2030 - a third of the Asia Pacific region's total opportunity cost.

"Our study reveals that there already isn't enough skilled talent to go around and by 2030, organisations and economies could find themselves in the grip of a talent crisis," said Dilal Ranasinghe, head of search and client development in Asean at Korn Ferry Futurestep.

In Singapore, this shortage is apparent in all three sectors covered by the study.

In financial and business services, for example, Singapore's labour shortage could result in unrealised revenue of US$29.2 billion annually by 2030.

Among the economies studied, Hong Kong and Singapore are also expected to be the hardest hit by labour shortages in manufacturing. By 2030, Hong Kong's deficit of highly skilled manufacturing workers will be equivalent to 80 per cent of its workforce in that sector, according to the report.

Singapore's deficit of such workers is expected to be above 61 per cent.

Mr Ranasinghe said Singapore is among the top five countries where the risks of a talent crunch are the highest.

"Upskilling the existing workforce in Singapore is therefore critical. Human resource development holds the key both to economic development and reducing inequality by enabling local populations to achieve their potential," he noted.

The Korn Ferry report is the latest in a series of studies highlighting the skills shortages Singapore companies are facing.

A poll conducted last December by industry association SGTech, formerly known as the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation, found that recruiting the right talent remains the top concern for technology firms in Singapore.

Of 164 firms surveyed, 67 per cent cited recruiting the right talent among their top five concerns in the next 12 months. This was also the top concern in the previous year's survey, when it was cited by three-quarters of firms polled.

Another study published last August by talent-outsourcing firm KellyOCG found that Singapore is expected to be the hardest hit by talent shortages in the near future relative to the rest of the Asia Pacific.

The majority of respondents polled (61 per cent) said they expect a negative impact on their business as a result of talent shortages in the next three years. In Singapore, this figure was higher at 75 per cent.

As part of its response to these concerns, the government has launched the Capability Transfer Programme, which will support companies in bringing in foreign specialists to transfer skills to the local workforce.

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