Israel is the 20th-leading country worldwide in developing, attracting and empowering talented employees, according to a global index published Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The index, published annually by leading graduate business school INSEAD, evaluates a wide range of policies and practices impacting human capital and contributing to productivity and prosperity. The latest publication by the Paris-based school emphasizes the importance of readying business and talent for the increasing impact of artificial intelligence technologies.
The competitiveness of 132 countries was measured according to 70 talent-related variables falling within six pillars: enable, attract, grow, retain, vocational and technical skills and global knowledge skills.
The index details that Israel excels worldwide in global knowledge skills (8th), reflecting creativity and problem-solving expertise, and vocational and technical skills (12th), describing technical or professional skills acquired through vocational or professional training and experience.
While Israel hovers around 20th place in pillars relating to enabling, growing and retaining talent, the country falls to 48th place in its ability to attract talent. A very low level of internal openness (105th), the index states, would primarily improve through greater tolerance of minorities and immigrants.
“Israel is not attracting talent as well as other nations – there are some ways in which it can be addressed and other ways which will remain a difficulty for the foreseeable future,” Bruno Lanvin, executive director for Global Indices at INSEAD and coeditor of the index, told The Jerusalem Post.
“One of the causes of attracting less talent than the United States, for example, is obviously the size of its market – Israel cannot compete with attracting talent like large businesses and universities in the US and other large countries.”
The degree of openness toward foreign talent, Lanvin said, is something that can be improved, with the ability to welcome people from across the world demonstrated by Israel’s flourishing tourism industry.
“Israel is a powerhouse in tourism. How come it is not doing the same in industry? There are probably lessons that can be learned,” said Lanvin.
Switzerland, the US and Singapore lead the global rankings, which are dominated by high-income countries. Malaysia is the only upper-middle income country to feature among the 30 most competitive countries. At the other end of the spectrum, Yemen, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were ranked as the least competitive.
Israel, the highest-ranked country in the Northern Africa and Western Asia region, sits one place behind Japan and ahead of France. The Jewish state has improved its ranking in recent years, sitting in 20th place on average during 2018-2020, compared to 25th place in 2015-2017.
Tel Aviv, known as a hub for start-ups and innovation, is ranked as the 72nd-leading city worldwide for talent competitiveness. New York, London and Singapore head the global cities index.
To improve its level of competitiveness across all pillars, Lanvin believes, Israel ought to identify “the recipe of success” in high-level skills and global knowledge skills and apply it elsewhere.
“Israel is a champion of unicorns [private businesses worth over $1 billion]. Only the US, UK and China perform better than Israel, with much greater capital and domestic markets,” said Lanvin. “There are lessons to be learned. The Start-Up Nation is not just a motto, it’s a way of life and mind-set. How can that be converted into other pillars in the model?”
The index ultimately aims to inform key stakeholders in different countries, from government to business and academia, and enable the development of best practices and often complex policies to grow, attract and retain talent.
In the field of artificial intelligence, the report states, technical advances are often “mismatched” with the institutions and mechanisms necessary for their full and social acceptance. Coordinated efforts are required to develop regulatory, ethical and values-based artificial intelligence strategies. Talent competition and labor markets have and will continue to be impacted by the rise of artificial intelligence.
OECD member states and partner economies adopted the first intergovernmental standards on artificial intelligence in May 2019. Values for the responsible stewardship of trustworthy artificial intelligence include enabling human intervention where necessary and functioning in a safe and secure manner.
“When people look at efforts that can be made to adapt labor markets to an AI world, they tend to focus on two extremes. On one hand, they look at jobs that can be easily automated. Even in surgery and accounting, machines and algorithms will be better than us,” said Lanvin. “At the other end of the spectrum are highly sophisticated tasks – leadership, creativity and team-building – where humans have superiority over machines and algorithms.”
What is often forgotten, Lanvin says, is the “missing middle” – the tasks that will enable humans and artificial intelligence to work together.
“AI can give humans super powers, but it needs to be properly managed – ethical principles and value-based principles. We’re still at the beginning of it,” he said.
Lanvin also warns that the world needs countries, including Israel and European nations, to counterweigh and disrupt the current domination of the US and China in the artificial intelligence sector.
“These AI products should be value-based and focused on what it means for our lives,” said Lanvin. “These are not questions to be left to engineers. It needs the input of neuroscientists, lawyers, economists and ordinary citizens. There are a number of questions that require challenging the current order.”