Switzerland topped the World Economic Forum's first Human Capital Index, which was released on Tuesday, and China ranked the highest among the BRICS nations at 43rd.
The Human Capital Index measured countries' ability to develop and deploy healthy, educated and able workers through four distinct pillars, education; health and wellness; workforce and employment; and enabling environment, according to the WEF.
Finland took up the 2nd place in the 122-country rankings and Singapore has been identified as the country in Asia most successful at maximizing the long-term economic potential of its labor force, ranked 3rd globally.
From the 4th to 10th places were the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Canada. Japan was at the 15th and the United States the 16th. Yemen was at the bottom of the rankings.
The report pointed out that Singapore's strong performance was based on an outstanding workforce and employment score and it also scored highly in terms of education enabling environment.
It said that China benefited from low unemployment and high business perceptions of skill levels, but was held back by health measures, the quality of its legal framework and low levels of tertiary education in the current workforce, a score that would likely change in coming years.
China's fellow BRICS, Russia (51), Brazil (57), India (78) and South Africa (86), produced mixed results, according to the report.
In Europe, a clear geographical division has emerged in terms of countries' ability to exploit their human capital endowments, with those in southern and eastern Europe faring poorly compared with their neighbors to the north and west, said the report.
It said that in North America, Canada ranked ahead of the United States primarily on account of its excellent rating for education; while the U.S. position was earned by its dynamic workforce and capacity to attract talent, as well as its innovation potential and high levels of university-level education.
Weaker factors of the United States included relatively high levels of non-communicable diseases during prime working ages and comparatively low levels of mental well-being, said the report.
The report highlighted that a nation' human capital endowment, productive skills and capacities, could be a more important determinant of long-term economic success than virtually any other resource.
It also identified an urgent need for investment at the earliest stages, as well as later in life, to generate returns for individuals as well as an economy.
"In the future, human capital will be the most important kind of capital. Investing in people is not just a nice to have; it is imperative for growth, prosperity and progress," said Klaus Schwab, WEF Founder and Executive Chairman.