This information comes following the release of the World Bank’s 2020 Human Capital Index, which features health and education data from 174 countries up to March, therefore covering 98% of the world’s population, which provides a pre-pandemic baseline on the health and education of children.
The latest report sees the country’s human capital index value increase from 0.66 to 0.69 between 2010 and 2020.
With regard to the probability of survival to the age of five, 98 out of 100 children born in the nation survive to the age of five while a local child who starts school at the age of four can expect to complete 12.9 years of school by the time they are 18. In fact, the expected years at school adds up to only 10.7 years.
Despite this, the country still faces major challenge in improving the human capital index due to the stunted rate among children remaining relatively heigh, especially among ethnic minority groups.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic threatens hard-fought gains in terms of health and education over the past decade, especially in the poorest countries, the latest World Bank analysis states.
Investment in human capital, in relation to the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate over their lifetimes, are key to unlocking a child’s potential and to improving economic growth worldwide.
The analysis indicates that before the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, most countries recorded steady progress in terms of building human capital of children, with the biggest strides made in low-income countries. Despite this progress, even before the negative effects of COVID-19 were felt, a child born in a typical country could expect to achieve just 56% of their potential human capital, relative to a benchmark of complete education and full health.
"The pandemic puts at risk the decade's progress in building human capital, including the improvements in health, survival rates, school enrollment, and reduced stunting. The economic impact of the pandemic has been particularly deep for women and for the most disadvantaged families, leaving many vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty," according to David Malpass, President of World Bank Group.
“Protecting and investing in people is vital as countries work to lay the foundation for sustainable, inclusive recoveries and future growth", the Malpass added.
As a result of the impact of the pandemic, more than 1 billion children have been out of school and could lose out half a year of schooling on average, translating into considerable monetary losses in the long term. Data also shows significant disruptions have occurred to essential health services for women and children, with many children missing out on crucial vaccinations.
The 2020 Human Capital Index also presents a perspective of the evolution of human capital outcomes from 2010 through to 2020, with data indicating improvements across all regions and across all income levels. These improvements can largely be attributed to better health which reflects in better child and adult survival rates, in addition to reduced stunting as well as an increase in school enrollment. This progress now appears to be at risk due to the global pandemic.
The analysis shows that human capital outcomes for girls are on average higher than those of boys. However, this has yet to translate into comparable opportunities in the labour market with employment rates 20% lower for women than for men on average, with a wider gap in many countries and regions. Furthermore, the pandemic is exacerbating risks of gender-based violence, child marriage and adolescent pregnancy, all of which serve to further reduce opportunities for learning and empowerment for women and girls.
At present, many human capital gains across the world are at risk. It therefore comes down to countries to do more than just work to recover lost progress. To protect and extend previous human capital gains, nations much expand their health service coverage and quality among marginalised communities, boost learning outcomes, together with school enrollments. These efforts should be made to support vulnerable families with social protection measures adapted to the scale of the COVID-19 crisis.
As such, ambitious, evidence-driven policy measures in health, education, and social protection can serve to recover lost ground and pave the way for today’s children to surpass the human capital achievements and quality of life of the generations that preceded them. Fully realising the creative promise embodied in each child has never been more important. VOV/WB