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Switzerland tops talent table despite high cost of living

Switzerland retains its number one spot in IMD‘s most recent 2016 World Talent Report. Unlike the other 60 nations in the study, which have seen their performance gyrate, a plot of Switzerland’s rank over the last ten years is a perfectly straight line. First ten years in a row.

The study looks at three things: investment in people, ability to attract skilled foreigners, and readiness, a measure of the availability of skills in the talent pool.

Swiss dog

© Damedeeso | - Click to enlarge

Investing in people

Overall Switzerland comes third in this category.

Swiss underperformance can be found in public education investment. Here it ranks 12th, spending 6% of GDP, behind leaders such as Denmark and Iceland, that both spend 7.6% of GDP. Despite this lower percentage Switzerland still outspends per capita. Because Swiss GDP is high it spends around 20% more per capita than Denmark on public education. In addition, it makes up for public education spending by ranking first on apprenticeships and employee training.

Other educational areas where Switzerland misses out coming top are pupil teacher ratios (primary 26th, secondary 23rd), spending per pupil (12th), and female labour force participation (22nd).

According to the report, increasing female labour force participation leads to more effective, higher quality leadership.

Attracting talent

Switzerland grabs the top spot for its ability to attract foreign talent. While a high standard of living is a magnet for talent, it all comes at a high price. On cost of living, Switzerland was ranked the second priciest behind Hong Kong. The cheapest place, South Africa, ranked only 42nd overall.

High cost was offset by the world’s highest pay. Swiss service sector workers were the highest paid in every category. Swiss bank credit officers (US$ 114,404), product managers (US$ 123,313), primary school teachers (US$ 99,869), personal assistants (US$ 72,551) and call centre agents (US$ 52,990) were all very well paid.

Management pay in Switzerland also beat the rest of the world. Average Swiss CEO pay (US$ 826,948), manufacturing director pay (US$ 347,612), director pay (US$ 330,732) and engineer pay (US$ 190,780) all outranked the other nations in the study.

If you envy South Africa’s low prices, the country will lose its pull when you discover the pay. A primary school teacher there earns US$ 13,174 and bank credit officer only US$ 12,774.


Switzerland came second here overall. Readiness includes: labour force growth (17th), skilled labour (8th), finance skills (3rd), international experience (1st), competent senior managers (5th), educational system (1st), science in school (2nd), university education (1st), management education (1st), language skills (2nd), inbound student mobility (7th), and PISA scores (9th).

The IMD study is consistent with other similar research. Overall Switzerland does several things very well. It produces talented people, in particular though apprenticeships and on-the-job training and attracts many of the best and brightest from other nations. It then puts all of these people to work in a multitude of high-tech-high-value-add sectors and pays them well, attracting further talent.

More on this:
IMD World Talent Report 2016 – opens PDF (in English)

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About Investec
Investec is a distinctive Specialist Bank and Asset Manager. We provide a diverse range of financial products and services to a niche client base in three principal markets, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia, as well as certain other geographies. Investec’s strategic goals are motivated by the desire to develop an efficient and integrated business on an international scale through the active pursuit of clearly established core competencies in the group’s principal business areas.
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