NUSA DUA, Indonesia: Singapore topped the World Bank Group's newest index which ranks 157 countries based on the productivity of the next generation's workers.
The bank's Human Capital Index was released on Thursday (Oct 11) at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual meetings on Indonesia's Bali island.
The rankings, based on health, education and survivability measures, assess the future productivity and earnings potential for citizens of the World Bank's member nations, and ultimately those countries' potential economic growth.
Singapore had an index standing at 0.88 followed by South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong. China was placed 46th, Malaysia at the 55th spot and Thailand at 65th.
Chad, South Sudan and Niger took the lowest three spots.
"By paying sustained attention to human development, Singapore is now among the world’s highest performers on learning and in the Human Capital Index," said the report.
The new system of ranking countries is an effort to prod governments to invest more effectively in education and healthcare.
According to the report, a child in Singapore who starts school at age four can expect to complete 13 years of school by his or her 18th birthday.
"In Singapore, 98 per cent of students reach the international benchmark for basic proficiency in secondary school; in South Africa, only 26 per cent of students meet that standard," said the report.
"Essentially, then, all of Singapore’s secondary school students are prepared for a post-secondary education and the world of work, while almost three-quarters of South Africa’s young people are not."
Students in Singapore scored 581 on a scale where 625 represents advanced attainment and 300 represents minimum attainment, according to the report.
The report also showed that children born in Singapore had a survival rate of near 100 per cent, and 95 per cent of 15-year-olds are likely to survive until the age of 60.
READ: ‘Job is never done’: PM Lee says health, education policies must evolve even after topping global index
DRAWING ATTENTION TO 'CRISIS'
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said he hoped the new index would encourage governments to take steps aimed at moving up the rankings, much as they seek to with the bank's popular "Doing Business" survey, which ranks countries based on ease of doing business, with low-tax, low-regulation economies faring better.
Mr Kim acknowledged that the rankings would be controversial, but told reporters that the need for more and better investment in people was "such that we couldn't shy away from making leaders uncomfortable".
"This is about drawing their attention to a crisis that we think is real. This is connected to productivity, this is connected to economic growth," Mr Kim said.
He said there was "unanimous" acceptance among World Bank member countries and the bank's board.
In Chad, the lowest country ranked on the list, the World Bank said productivity and earnings potential would be only about 29 per cent of what their potential would be under ideal conditions there.
In Singapore, the earnings potential was 88 per cent of potential, while in the United States, ranked 24th between Israel and Macau, productivity and earnings were measured at 76 per cent of potential.
Mr Kim said there were 28 countries, from Indonesia to Lesotho to Ukraine, who signed on as "early adopters" of the index to work with the World Bank to devise plans to improve their investment in health and education.
The bank has warned that a wave of automation and artificial intelligence will eliminate many low-skilled jobs in coming years, making it harder for people with low levels of education and poor health to compete for work.
The index showed that a country ranked at 50 per cent, such as Morocco and El Salvador, would lose 1.4 percentage points of annual GDP growth compared to its potential under ideal health and education conditions.