Nepal’s Human Capital Index score improves to 0.50


A new World Bank report has revealed that Nepal’s score improved in human capital development over the last two years.

The Human Capital Index 2020 unveiled today shows Nepal’s score stood at 0.50 out of the maximum possible score of one compared to 0.49 achieved two years ago.

Nepal’s score basically means that a child born today will be 50 per cent as productive when he or she grows up as he or she would be if she enjoyed complete education and full health. This is higher than the average for the South Asia region and the average for countries with similar level of income, both at 0.48. This was largely due to an improvement in school enrolment and institutionalising the measurement of student learning.

Today’s report shows a child who starts school at four years of age in Nepal can expect to complete 12.3 years of school by his or her 18th birthday. But factoring in what children actually learn, expected years of schooling is only 7.2 years.

The findings are, nonetheless, an improvement compared to the situation in 2018 when children in the country could expect to complete 11.7 years of pre-primary, primary and secondary school by age 18. When years of schooling were adjusted for quality of learning, it was equivalent to just 6.9 years.

“Investment in human capital is just as important as investment in infrastructure, if not more, and brings returns in the form of a healthier and more productive workforce in the long run,” Faris Hadad-Zervos, World Bank country director for Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka has been quoted as saying in a media release accompanying the report. “There is a need for an accelerated push to focus on investing in human capital in the recovery and rebuilding phases after the pandemic. This requires close collaborations among all three levels of the government in order to bring about large and sustainable changes.”

Among its South Asian peers, Nepal maintained its ranking of second spot, lagging behind Sri Lanka — similar to back in 2018.

Worldwide, a child born in 2020 can expect, on average, to be 56 per cent as productive as he or she could be when he or she grows up, World Bank has said.

The 2020 Human Capital Index includes health and education data up to March 2020 for 174 countries covering 98 per cent of the world’s population, providing a pre-pandemic baseline on the health and education status of children. In its first report on HCI, which was released in 2018, World Bank had ranked 157 economies.

Globally, Nepal had managed to secure 102nd position back then. Because of inclusion of more countries in this year’s update, the bank has not provided any reference to the global ranking this time around.

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens hardwon gains in health and education over the past decade, especially in the poorest countries, the World Bank Group has said in its analysis of the findings. The 2020 HCI shows that pre-pandemic, most countries made steady progress in building human capital of children, with the biggest strides made in low-income countries.

The bank has said countries can do more than just work to recover the lost ground. To protect and extend earlier human capital gains, countries need to expand health service coverage and quality among marginalised communities, boost learning outcomes together with school enrolments, and support vulnerable families with social protection measures adapted to the scale of the COVID-19 crisis.

In Nepal, it is essential to invest more in the early years, with a focus on those children who have been left behind, the bank has said in the release.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on September 18, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.