The Singapore government is trying to turn the economy into a regional hi-tech hub. It helps small businesses adopt new technologies and supports workers in retraining. After imposing restrictions on immigration, the city-state is pushing for the automation of some low-skilled jobs, such as cleaners.

The city-state ranked second behind Switzerland in the Global Talent Competitiveness Index. Australia was the only other country from the Asia-Pacific region ranked in the top 10.

The index assesses a country’s ability to facilitate, attract, grow and retain talent, as well as to develop global knowledge and vocational and technical skills. High-ranking countries share some key advantages: employment policies that favor flexibility, good education systems, and technological competence.

Digital technologies will help small and exposed economies like Singapore to rise above it, creating means for their companies and talents to connect with the global market.

Some of Asia’s largest economies ranked much lower on the index. Japan dropped three places to No. 22 globally, while China ranked No. 54 and India No. 92.

A big challenge for China and India lies in their ability to attract talent, and both face the issue of more skilled local workers leaving their countries to live and work abroad. To enhance their attractiveness, countries can further improve their market and regulatory environments.

Malaysia ranked highest among upper-middle income countries, ranking 28th in the global index, beating wealthier countries such as South Korea, Spain and Italy. The Southeast Asian nation gets high marks for its vocational and technical skills and for being open to foreign talent.