Facts and figures: human resources

From the UNESCO Science Report, Towards 2030

There were 7.8 million full-time equivalent researchers in 2013, representing growth of 21% since 2007. Researchers accounted for 0.1% of the global population.

Since 2007, the share of low and middle-income economies in the global pool of researchers has increased by 5 percentage points to 35.6% in 2013. China alone was home to more than half of these: 19.1% of the global research labour force in 2013, almost equivalent to China’s share of the global population: 19.3%. China has overtaken the USA (16.7% in 2012) to count the highest share of researchers of any country in the world. However, China’s researcher density (1 071 per million inhabitants in 2013) is only equivalent to the world average:  1 083.

Israel had the highest density of researchers in the world in 2012, with 8 337 researchers per million inhabitants. This is more than double the density in the USA (3 984 in 2012) and United Kingdom (4 108 in 2013). Researcher density was also very high in the Republic of Korea (6 533) and in Japan (5 195) in 2013.

The Big Five (China, European Union, Japan, Russian Federation and USA) still account for 72% of researchers worldwide but the share of China has progressed considerably since 2009, to the detriment of Japan, the Russian Federation and the USA. The share of the European Union (7.1% of the global population) has remained stable, at 22.2% in 2013, compared to 22.5% in 2009. Europe as a whole (11.4% of the global population) hosts 31% of the world’s researchers.

Between 2007 and 2013, the world share of researchers progressed fastest in upper middle-income economies (31.4% of the global population in 2013), from 22.5% to 28.0%, largely to the detriment of high-income countries (18.3% of global population), the share of which fell from 69.5% to 64.4%.

Lower middle-income economies (35.7% of global population) have seen their share of world researchers go down from 6.9% in 2007 to 6.4% in 2013. On the other hand, the number of researchers in low-income countries (11.9% of global population) has grown by 39% since 2007 to reach 1.3% of the world total in 2013.

Latin America and South Asia (8% and 23.3% of the global population respectively) contain roughly comparable shares of world researchers: 3.6% and 3.1% respectively.
Africa as a whole hosted 2.4% of the world’s researchers in 2013 and sub-Saharan Africa 1.1%, whereas the Arab states in Africa and Asia together accounted for another 1.9%.

Bolivia has the highest share of women among researchers (head counts): 63%. Twenty-three other countries had a share of women greater than 45% in or around 2013. The breakdown by region is as follows: Southeast Europe (49%), Latin America and the Caribbean (44%), Central Asia (44%), Eastern Europe (40%), Arab States (37%), sub-Saharan Africa (30%), West Asia (27%), Southeast Asia (23%) and South Asia (17%).

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