Almost half of all human capital (44 per cent) in the Middle East is underutilised, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

This compares to the world average of 38 per cent, as calculated by in Global Human Capital Index, and published in The Global Human Capital Report 2017 – Preparing people for the future of work.

UAE, Bahrain and Qatar outperformed the rest of the region’s Arab speaking countries, coming 45th, 47th and 55th, respectively, out of the 130 countries surveyed. Saudi Arabia stood at 82nd in the table and Kuwait was 96th.

The Index measures how well countries are developing their human talent on a scale of zero to 100, across five age groups and four different dimensions: capacity, deployment, development and know-how.

There are 21 unique indicators, covering aspects such as educational attainment rate at primary and secondary school, employment gender pap, labour force participation rate, quality of primary schools and the availability of skilled workers.

The UAE achieved an overall score of 65.48, rating highly for development (75.82), but less well for capacity (60.36). Bahrain scored 64.98 overall, with its strongest performance in capacity (76.31). Saudi Arabia was weakest when it came to deployment (49.41).

The three highest-ranking Gulf states benefitted significantly “from the strong perceived quality of their education systems”, said the report.

“However, relative to their income levels, these countries have additional opportunities to further boost their human capital performance, reporting some of the lowest skill diversity scores and tertiary and vocational enrolment rates in the Index,” said the WEF.

But there are significant opportunities for economies with already-high talent capacity and development, such as the UAE, “to boost their human capital performance through a focus on the know-how subindex, including opportunities for high- and medium-skilled work as well as broadening the complexity of the economies in question through sectoral investment”, it added.

“The ingenuity and creativity at our collective disposal provides us with the means not only to address the great challenges of our time, but also, critically, to build a future that is more inclusive and human-centric,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman at the WEF.

Core to the index is the idea that investment is needed to develop talent, through education and employment.

The highest-ranking countries tend to be those that have a long-standing commitment to good educational attainment. Norway tops the list, ahead of Finland, Switzerland and the US.

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