In order, from first to fifth were: Switzerland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Iceland, and Sweden.

This year’s results — which use hard data from 2019 and survey answers from January to April 2020 — underline the importance of education and mobility to foster and attract talent, and therefore throw into question the future of talent-dependent economies when the COVID pandemic eases off.

“Leveraging existing practices and factors that give a particular country a comparative advantage, such as regulations around immigration that facilitate recruitment, will be important. However, the increase in the openness of businesses to remote work and overseas staff might prove to be an even more significant change,” said Arturo Bris, Director of the World Competitiveness Center.

“Talent economies of the future might therefore be rebuilt in a way that mitigates some `anti talent-attraction’ factors that were, until now, considered weaknesses such as low quality of life or high cost of living. It will be an extremely complex process, though, as issues of fiscal jurisdiction and/or tax compliance would also need to be addressed,” he added.

Both mobility and education have been brought to a halt under lockdown restrictions.

The study measured some criteria that may help us better understand the impact of the pandemic: measuring attractiveness to foreign high-skilled workers, the implementation of apprenticeships, and the importance of employee training among them.

For instance, the mediocre ranking that the UK shows this year — in at number 23, below Germany in 11th, Belgium in 16th and Ireland in 18th — could reflect that uncertainties around Brexit have been damaging the UK’s talent competitiveness as talent leaves the country.

Remaining attractive to overseas staff while minimizing brain drain, and more broadly talent retention are, traditionally, keys to preserving an effective talent pool.

However, a new major hurdle will be to sustain the workforce's motivation under conditions of uncertainty.

Maintaining motivation will be key to achieving the levels of productivity necessary to smooththe transition to a post-COVID environment. Enabling employees to acquire new or redeploy existing skills — to transition to remote working for example — may be part of this, the authors said.

They added that, in a continuously changing context, the adoption of flexible new technologies will also be a must-have ingredient to add to the mix.