Article: How fellow countries are dealing with the skilling challenge?


How fellow countries are dealing with the skilling challenge?

Let’s take a closer look at a few skilling initiatives introduced by Norway, Japan and Hong Kong.
How fellow countries are dealing with the skilling challenge?

It is the skills and the people that drive world economies towards a better tomorrow. Investing in continuous learning is not something restricted to the agenda of only organizations, it is relevant for nations at the macro level. 

Investing in learning and development of economy’s talent is so critical that the World Bank also lists it as one of the key priorities and runs a dedicated project named Human Capital Project for countries across the globe. Last year the World Bank Group revealed the human capital index in which the top 5 countries were Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Finland. 

Back in 2017, the World Economic Forum also came out with the Global Human Capital Index and ranked 130 countries on how well they are developing their human capital. As per this index by WEF, Norway was ranked the best-performing country in the world when it comes to the training and education of its population. Further, Finland was in 2nd place, Switzerland in 3rd place, and Denmark and Sweden in 5th and 8th place respectively.

Further, if we look at the IMD World Talent Ranking 2018, Western Europe is the leading hub for the world’s talent, outperforming other regions in attracting, developing and retaining highly skilled employees. 

While human capital index focuses on aspects like healthcare and primary education as well, the IMD World Talent Ranking considers success in different talent-related areas such as education, training, apprenticeships, language skills, quality of life, remuneration and tax rates.

Although different countries topped these respective indexes, there are a few countries that seem to appear in at least the top 20 to 50 of each of these lists. Countries like Norway, Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, and Switzerland have been working towards preparing their human capital for the future of work by investing in different skilling initiatives and have been able to solve the skilling challenge to quite an extent. And though they still have their own challenges to deal with, there are a few lessons we can learn from them. 

Let’s take a closer look at a few policies and programs introduced by some of these respective countries:


The country realized the need to be able to handle ongoing restructuring the economy is undergoing without increasing the inequalities between those who live here. They identified that it requires further investment to ensure that more of them get into work and that their businesses attract the skills they need. Despite Norway leading the human capital indexes, as per the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Norway has been unsuccessful in making effective use of the population's skills and competencies. 

OECD suggests that many who are excluded from employment have low skill levels, or they are unable to make use of the skills they have because there is no demand for them in the labor market. This is a serious problem.

That’s how began Skills Norway - Directorate for Lifelong Learning, which belongs to the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. 

Skills Norway

  • Skills Norway works in areas such as adult education in basic skills, Norwegian and socio-cultural orientation, vocational training, careers advice and matching skills with the needs of the labor market and businesses.
  • Skills Norway is responsible for the course curricula as well as the content of the Norwegian language tests and social studies tests. It also spearheads work to ensure that employers correctly understand the skills levels involved with the Norwegian language test, in order to avoid exclusion of applicants due to unnecessarily high language requirements. However, the responsibility for organizing the tests is devolved to the local authorities.

National skills strategy

In the spring of 2017, the national skills strategy was approved. Apparently, the government initiated work on this strategy in order to strengthen collaboration between different sectors in formulating the skills policy. The strategy is a binding agreement between the government, both sides of the industry, the voluntary sector and the Sami Parliament. The strategy sets the goals and approaches for work on the skills policy from 2017 to 2021. It has three main focus areas:

  • Good choices for individuals and for society
  • On-the-job learning and putting skills to good use
  • Strengthening the skills of adults with weak affiliation with the world of employment

Hong Kong

From partnering with e-learning platforms to introducing programs for adult education, Hong Kong’s government has been continuously investing in skilling their people and preparing them for skills of the future. 

Collaborating with Udemy to train people in tech skills

To particularly help SMEs upgrade to new technologies in artificial intelligence, robotics, and Internet of Things, the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) (established in 1967) partnered with Udemy to help them gain knowledge of these areas. 

To upskill their SME workforce, HKPC’s Academy provides a training program that blends an online and offline curriculum. While HKPC charges fees for the training program, the Government subsidizes two-thirds of the cost for SME employees via the Reindustrialisation and Technology Training Programme (RTTP). 

Education for all

Recently, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said in a launch of one of the training initiatives, “We place very high importance on youth development, particularly promoting upward social mobility of the younger generation in Hong Kong and creating more so-called shared value in the process, and also provide more opportunities for our young generation, not only employment, but education and so on.”

Besides focusing on education for children and the youth, the government also encourages the adults to continue learning and upskilling themselves. As Hong Kong's population continues to age, it becomes ever more important to foster a more inclusive understanding of what continuing education entails, and the government realizes that. 

Hence it has several programs and policies focused on adult education - from Self-financing Local Programs, Non-local Higher & Professional Courses, Financial Assistance Scheme for Designated Evening Adult Education Courses (FAEAEC) to vocational training. 


It is no news that Japan’s economic and social development has been spurred by human resources, not natural resources, so it all the more understands the value of investing in the next generation and preparing for the skills of the future. Hence, skilling forms a key pillar for the country. The government works closely with world organizations such as the United Nations and is also part of international groups with nations from all over the world. The government also has made several partnerships with other countries to work together on training and development of talents in respective countries. 

Skills to share

  • Education for foreign students: Japan provides assistance in human resources development mainly through technical cooperation to accept foreign students, improve the capabilities and functions of higher educational institutions, develop the capacities of administrators, develop and enhance of vocational skills, improve occupational safety and health, and strengthen industrial competitiveness. Moreover, for personnel training, information and communication technology (ICT) is often used to provide high-quality assistance at a lower cost. 
  • Sustainable Education: The Project for Extension Inland Aquaculture, a unique program supported by the Japanese government in Benin, does not simply disseminate aquaculture techniques to the local community, but also nurtures core fish farmers who can teach aquaculture techniques to others. In the first 4.5 years, 20 core fish farmers were trained and about 3,000 ordinary fish farmers participated in training courses. 
  • Imparting digital skills from the start: The government has recently taken the decision to make coding a compulsory subject in the nation’s elementary schools from 2020, creating new basic skills for the nation’s workforce.
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Topics: Skilling, #SkillUp

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