Despite its tighter policy on hiring foreigners, Singapore has moved up a notch to second place in the world for recruiting, employing and redeploying talent, the New York-based human resource consultancy firm Aon Hewitt has said.
Singapore overtook Toronto to move up from last year's third position to just behind New York, which has kept its top ranking in Aon Hewitt's 2013 People Risk Index.
Singapore's climb up was attributed largely to "strong government policies and world-class talent development facilities, leading to a pool of qualified and experienced talent".
The index measures the risks companies face in recruitment, employment and relocation in 138 cities globally. The measurement is based on five factors: demographics, access to education, talent development, employment practices and government regulations.
Each of these factors is given a weight ranging from one for minimal or no risk to 50 for extreme risk. The aggregate of the weights - the overall rating - indicates how risky a city is for recruiting, employing and re-deploying talent. This ranges from 25 for minimal or no risk to 250 for extreme risk.
Singapore scored 70 overall, against New York's 67. It beat New York handily in government rules, scoring 12 against New York's 17. The cities were on par in talent development and employment practices, with both scoring nine and 16 respectively in these two areas.
In demographics, New York did better with 16 against Singapore's 21, with the Republic hobbled by its smaller, ageing population.
The others on this year's top 10 list of lowest-risk cities are London, Montreal, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, Zurich and Chicago; Hong Kong was the only other Asian city in the top 10, improving its placing from ninth to seventh.
The Asia-Pacific is a rich source of talent, not only in Singapore and Hong Kong, said Rick Payne, Aon Hewitt's regional talent and rewards practice leader for the Asia-Pacific.
"Continued investment in education and talent development has increased the availability of talent regionally, though we are beginning to see an impact on labour costs. As economies in the region mature, they will begin to face the same workforce challenges experienced by western economies and so will need to start thinking about how to continue to attract business in the future," he said.
Among the 10 lowest-risk cities in the Asia-Pacific - apart from Singapore and Hong Kong - are Melbourne, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo, Osaka and Seoul.
Aon Hewitt said in a statement: "Their positions as the Asia-Pacific's lowest-risk cities can be attributed to strong government support and transparency.
"High income levels have enabled these cities to invest in education infrastructure and talent development facilities."
This in turn has increased the availability of qualified talent.
Among the highest-risk cities in this year's index are Luanda in Angola, Tripoli in Libya, and Baghdad in Iraq. High-risk cities in the Asia-Pacific include Chongqing in China, Jaipur in India, Colombo in Sri Lanka, Hanoi in Vietnam, Phnom Penh in Cambodia, Karachi in Pakistan and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.
Aon Hewitt said: "The lack of a stable and transparent government continues to be an obstacle to implement and enforce business-friendly employment practices in these cities."
Despite the challenges, it said, investors are still putting their money in Asia-Pacific cities such as Port Moresby.
Aon Hewitt said: "The risks prevalent in Port Moresby include inadequate infrastructure, high crime rates, poor government support and lack of transparency. Nonetheless the economic potential arising from the abundant natural resources make it an attractive location for investment."