Developed and high-income countries, especially in Europe, continue to produce world-leading talent, according to the 2018 Global Talent Competitive Index published by world business school Insead. The 25 most competitive global talent markets in the world included no fewer than 15 European countries.

Most notably, the Nordic countries, including Norway (fourth), Sweden (fifth), Finland (sixth) and Denmark (seventh), all found places in the top 10. “The Nordics score remarkably on most variables related to collaboration, internal openness, social mobility and gender equality,” said Insead.


In addition, the Anglosphere scored remarkably well, with the US (third), UK (eighth), Australia (11th), Ireland (13th), and Canada (15th) featuring in the top 25 of this year’s index. The Anglosphere shares common characteristics vital to competitive talent pools, including flexible business landscapes, openness and favourable employment policies.

The UAE (17th) and Latin America were among the most improved countries and regions for global talent competitiveness. Newly introduced approaches to diversity and formal education have created more qualified talent pools in both the UAE and Latin America, according to the index.

In particular, Latin America produces the most female graduates in the world, which has boosted the region’s overall talent competitiveness, said the report. “Acceptance of diversity begins in the family and at school,” said Paul Evans, the co-editor of the report. “Formal education has a crucial responsibility in building the collaborative competencies needed for a more inclusive world.”

Meanwhile, Zurich, Stockholm, and Oslo captured the top three places in this year’s index, while cities like New York and London were left out of the top 10. In their absence, Washington D.C. (sixth), Dublin (seventh), San Francisco (eighth), and Paris (ninth), represented the US and Europe among the most talented cities in the world.

New York (14th) and London’s (16th) relegation outside the top 10 is a growing reflection of corporate ‘relocation thinking’ and the shift toward smaller cities, reported the index. Larger corporations are, increasingly, looking to relocate their global headquarters to new cities, as well as smaller cities with higher-level talent. Besides Paris, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, the remaining top cities for talent competitiveness have an average population below 400,000, according to the report.

“Large corporations have long ceased to be linked forever to the cities where they were created,” the report stated. As a result, talent competitiveness is likely to become even more prevalent in the future, as companies seek to move away from traditional home bases, like New York and London, to establish their new headquarters elsewhere.

The competition among US cities for Amazon’s second headquarters offers a prime example. In January, 2018, the tech giant’s shortlist included sites near large metropolitan areas, like New York and Los Angeles, but also smaller Midwestern cities such as Columbus and Indianapolis according to the Financial Times.

Despite impressive economic growth in the past decade, there is not a single Asian city included in the top ten of the index. Places such as Shanghai, Tokyo, and Beijing missed out due to their great size as well as their struggle “to attract talent from abroad, particularly in the context of large emigration rates of high-skilled people”, said the report.

In the future, diversity will be key for countries and cities to expand upon their talent networks, the report concluded. “Diversity is a crucial leverage for innovation,” asserted Peter Zemsky, dean of innovation at INSEAD.