Trends in Digital Talent

Growth rate is high in non-ICT industries; China and other emerging economies have become more attractive

Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, big data, and other new-generation information technologies have given the digital economy an increasingly important role in global economic growth. Countries everywhere around the world are making the digital economy a bedrock of their economic development. As the digital transformation pushes forward, demand for digital talents is soaring. But a lack of available talent has restricted the digital economy’s development. 

To illustrate to the need for digital talents, the Tsinghua SEM Center for Internet Development and Governance (CIDG) collaborated with LinkedIn Economic Graph to publish the 2020 Global Digital Talent Index Report. Based on public data of nearly 40 million LinkedIn members in 31 cities and regions around the world, the report details the development of industries and professional skill sets. It also illustrates the migration of digital talent in major cities and regions around the globe.

The report defines digital talents as people with skill sets relevant to the industry and excludes people with only simple digital literacy. Digital talents included in the report are strategy managers, high-end analysists, researchers, and developers. The report also incorporates talents with multiple digital skills, such as research and development, operations, smart manufacturing, and marketing. Here are some of the report’s key findings:

The global proportion of digital talents in non-ICT industries is high, and the digital transformation of traditional industries continues to advance. The proportion of digital talents in non-ICT industries is higher than in the ICT industry, as digital transformation has integrated into all walks of life. Digital talents are concentrated in four major non-ICT industries: manufacturing, finance, consumer goods, and corporate services. Los Angeles, New York, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, and London are the top-five global markets with the highest proportion of digital talents in the non-ICT industries; each market has over 80 percent.

Digital skills are the most representative skills in emerging economies such as China and India. Beijing’s representative skills are development tools, computer hardware, animation, digital marketing, and computer networking, while Shanghai’s top-five skills are computer hardware, manufacturing operation, electronics, digital marketing, and foreign languages. Digital skills are the most representative skills in each of the two major cities. In other parts of the world, the digital skills of talents differ significantly. The report shows digital skills rank relatively low in North American cities, behind industrial skills such as real estate, construction engineering, and healthcare management, which shows that digital skills have been well integrated into traditional industries in North America. But in Europe and other developed Asia-Pacific cities, including Hong Kong, Singapore, UAE, and Sydney, representative skills include not only digital skills, but also industrial, business, and soft skills.

Disruptive (digital) skills that create new scenarios for the digital age are driving deeper digital transformation. Among the global cities and regions detailed in the report, the San Francisco Bay Area in the United States and Bangalore in India rank highest for disruptive skills. The two cities, not coincidentally, are also global leaders in materials science and artificial intelligence. San Francisco and Bangalore are followed by the UAE, Singapore, Shanghai, Paris, Munich, London, New York, Boston, Berlin, and Barcelona, each of which have advantages in terms of a single (or multiple) disruptive skill(s). For example, Singapore boasts talent advantages in materials science, robotics, and genetic engineering, while Shanghai excels in materials science, nanotechnology and robotics and Paris leads in materials science and aerospace engineering.

Cities in Europe and Asia-Pacific are preferred destinations by talents. The top-five most attractive cities to global digital talents, according to the report, are Dublin, Berlin, Singapore, Shenzhen, and Milan. At the same time, Beijing, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Chicago, and Boston have seen a net talent outflow. Bangalore, UAE, Singapore, San Francisco Bay Area, and New York are hubs for global digital talent flow, while Shanghai is the hub for China. Digital talents in North America and the Asia-Pacific are most inclined to move within their respective regions. Nearly half of digital talents in Europe flow to the Asia-Pacific.

Digital technology is profoundly changing the world by promoting the quality and efficiency of economic development. Thanks to this report, we can clearly see how the need for digital talents has become so widespread.