Winning the talent competition
SHI YU/CHINA DAILY
Chinese cities need to remedy their relatively weak competitiveness in wooing global talent
The global competition to attract and retain top talent has become increasingly fierce in recent years as technological innovation, industrial advances and cross-border talent and knowledge flows have accelerated.
As the world's second-largest economy, China's relative weak competitiveness in wooing global talent will hinder the country's rapid economic growth and undermine its global economic impact.
According to the 2020 Global Talent Competitiveness Index report, jointly released by INSEAD, the Adecco Group and Google, China ranked 42nd and had unsatisfactory performance in attracting talent and in vocational and technical skills.
Despite its large pool of human resources for science and technology, the structure of China's talent pool is yet to be optimized to match with the country's industrial upgrading and the uneven development between the eastern and western regions remains to be solved. The rigid talent evaluation and incentive mechanisms in research institutes and businesses have resulted in a lack of vitality among talent. China has performed well in primary education, university rankings and enterprise training while it has much room for improvement in such areas as the enrollment rate of vocational training, lifelong learning and staff career development.
On the regional level, few regions in China have established databases for talent. Such databases could help local authorities use big data to analyze what kinds of talent their regions lack and how they can attract and retain the talent they need.
Almost all Chinese cities, regardless of their development goals, have offered such incentives as housing allowances and higher payments to people with a master's degree or above, especially for those with overseas education and work experience. However, a city should align its talent attraction strategy with the regional development strategy. That is, the talent it is trying to recruit should match its development needs and strategic objectives. Otherwise, blindly scrambling for talent will just be a waste of money.
The establishment of an international talent big data platform could effectively solve the aforementioned problems. The platform should aggregate, store and analyze information about international talent by integrating such information from various entities--governments, businesses and international human resources intermediary service agencies. For instance, the Global Talent Digital Portrait System established by the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission, with a database of 7 million global talents in such fields as science, engineering, agricultural technology and medical science, serves as a useful experiment in this area.
High-quality platforms should be leveraged to attract top global talent. Different regions should, based on local conditions, establish their own global talent attraction platforms suitable for their respective stage of development. Regarding the construction of scientific research platforms, universities should accelerate the establishment of top-notch labs and research centers based on their own advantages to attract top scientific research personnel from all over the world.
Furthermore, the newly established free trade zones across China could serve as a perfect platform for attracting top global talent. For instance, the pilot free trade zones in Shanghai, and Hainan and Guangdong provinces have unveiled favorable policies, including all-round and high-quality services for global talent.
A scientific talent attraction strategy should be formulated. For example, Singapore has focused on innovative talents and entrepreneurs after taking into consideration the country's transition from being a traditional manufacturing powerhouse to an innovation-driven economy. London has formulated a list of urgently needed professionals based on the city's most recent talent demands and has introduced classified management and incentives for the target professionals.
Different Chinese cities and regions should, based on their own resource endowment and development targets, formulate scientific strategies for attracting and retaining global talent. Vicious competition and hastiness should be avoided. Instead, local governments should, based on their respective industrial development priorities and advantages, formulate detailed guidelines on the demand for global talent and standards for attracting such talent and update the policies in a timely fashion.
Flexible policy support, a career-and family-friendly environment, good education and healthcare systems, and an open and vibrant environment for startups and innovation are important factors for attracting talent. Therefore, China could work on the following areas to create a more favorable work and living environment for global talent.
Speedy, convenient and diversified visa policies are needed. For instance, to attract top-notch scientists, research personnel and mathematicians from around the world, London started implementing corresponding express visa schemes for relevant talent in February 2020. Singapore released the Singapore Entrepreneur Pass, a work visa granted to foreign entrepreneurs who are interested in setting up their businesses in Singapore.
It is critical to create a favorable environment for innovative and entrepreneurial talent. Cities should strengthen their cultural development to increase competitiveness in attracting and retaining global talent.
Last but not least a multi-layer, diversified policy system for attracting global talent should be established to lure not only top global talent but also talent of all trades, at all levels.
The author is a professor with the School of Management at Fudan University and director of the Global Scientific and Innovation Talent Development Research Center. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.