Sunday, October 14, 2018

Nepal's fares better than most South Asian countries on the state of human capital

This year’s World Development Report focuses on the changing nature of work and the importance of productive human capital. The report argues that there is no need to become overly fearful of robots taking over jobs that have traditionally been done by humans. 

Technological progress (innovation) reshapes work, and firms adopt new ways to produce goods and services and to expand markets. Governments too can make use of technology to delivery effective public services. Differences in human capital now will have profound implication on productivity of the next generation of workers. 

Key highlights:

Technology changes the nature of labor demand, especially it reduces demand for low skilled workers but raises premium on high-order cognitive skills. This is especially true in the case of manufacturing jobs in some advanced economies and middle-income countries. But then technology has provided new opportunities to create new jobs, increased productivity and helped to deliver effective public services. 

Digital technologies allows firms to scale up or down production quickly; and platform marketplaces allows faster diffusion of technology to benefit general public.   

Three types of skills are particularly important: advanced cognitive skills (complex problem solving), socio-behavioral skills (teamwork), and skill combinations predictive of adaptability (reasoning and self-efficacy). 

Investing on human capital, especially education and health, must be a priority for governments. Policy measures include investing in people through nutrition, healthcare, quality education, jobs and skills. Accumulation of knowledge, skills and health helps citizens realize their potential and make them productive. Investment in physical and human capital complements each other. Creating formal jobs, better access to internet, investment in roads and municipal infrastructure, and social protection are vital to enhance human capital. Focusing on early childhood, tertiary education, and adult learning outside jobs could help in adapting to skills readjustment. 

The changing pattern of jobs and skills landscape necessitates social protection as well. Eight in 10 people in developing countries receive no social assistance, and 6 in 10 work informally without insurance. The report recommends expanding social protection coverage to cover the neediest people (and eventually universal coverage), exploring the feasibility of universal basic income, and placing community health workers on the government’s payroll. 

To create fiscal space, developing countries need to increase tax base (such as property taxes in urban municipalities and excise duty on sugar or tobacco), enhance efficiency of public administration (indirect taxes, reforming subsidies, closing global tax loopholes) and reduce the size of informal sector. Addressing informality in the absence of social protection for workers is a challenging policy issue.

Human Capital Index

The WDR 2019 also includes Human Capital Index (HCI), which measures “the amount of human capital that a child born in 2018 can expect to attain by age 18, given the risks of poor health and education that may exist in the country where she lives”. HCI ranges between 0 and 1, with a higher score indicating that a child born today achieves full health (defined as no stunting and survival up to at least age 60) and completes her education potential (defined as 14 year of high-quality school by age 18). 

Specifically, it is a composite score of five indicators: (i) the probability of survival to age five; (ii) a child’s expected years of schooling by her 18th birthday; (iii) harmonized test scores as a measure of quality of learning; (iv) adult survival rate (fraction of 15 year olds that will survive to age 50); and (v) the proportion of children who are not stunted. Indicators (ii) and (iii) is a measure of expected years of quality-adjusted schooling, which combines quantity and quality of education. Indicators (iv) and (v) are related to health dimension. 

For instance, Nepal has a HCI score of 0.49, meaning that a child born today in Nepal will only be half as productive as she could have been relative to the benchmark of complete education and full health. You could also think this of as the possibility of doubling GDP in the future if Nepal reaches the benchmark of complete education and full health. Nepal’s HCI is higher than the average for South Asia region.

On Nepal and South Asia:

Nepal ranked 102 out of 157 countries covered in the report. India ranked 115 (and has rejected the findings). Sri Lanka ranked 74.

Human Capital Index: A child born in Nepal today will be 49 percent as productive when she grows up as she could be if she enjoyed complete education and full health. In 2017, the HCI for Nepal is higher than what would be predicted for its income level. 
  • In South Asia, Sri Lanka had the highest HCI score (0.58) followed by Nepal (0.49), Bangladesh (0.48), India (0.44), Afghanistan (0.39), and Pakistan (0.39).
Probability of Survival to Age 5: 97 out of 100 children born in Nepal survive to age 5. 
  • In South Asia, probability of survival to age 5 is the highest in Sri Lanka (99 out of 100 children), followed by Bangladesh and Nepal, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. 
Expected Years of School: In Nepal, a child who starts school at age 4 can expect to complete 11.7 years of school by her 18th birthday. 
  • In South Asia, expected years of school is highest in Sri Lanka (13), followed by Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. 
Harmonized Test Scores: Students in Nepal score 369 on a scale where 625 represents advanced attainment and 300 represents minimum attainment.
  • In South Asia, students’ harmonized test scores is the highest in Sri Lanka (400) followed by Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. 
Learning-adjusted Years of School: Factoring in what children actually learn, expected years of school is only 6.9 years. Children in Nepal can expect to complete 11.7 years of pre-primary, primary and secondary school by age 18. However, when years of schooling are adjusted for quality of learning, this is only equivalent to 6.9 years: a learning gap of 4.8 years.
  • In South Asia, learning-adjusted years of school is the highest in Sri Lanka (8.3 years), followed by Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Adult Survival Rate: Across Nepal, 85 percent of 15-year olds will survive until age 60. This statistic is a proxy for the range of fatal and non-fatal health outcomes that a child born today would experience as an adult under current conditions.
  • In South Asia, adult survival rate is the highest in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka (0.87), followed by Nepal, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. 
Healthy Growth (Not Stunted Rate): 64 out of 100 children are not stunted. 36 out of 100 children are stunted, and so at risk of cognitive and physical limitations that can last a lifetime.
  • In South Asia, Sri Lanka has the highest fraction of kids under 5 NOT stunted (0.83), followed by Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. 
UNDP’s HDI and WB’s HCI are complementary. HDI is a composite index of life expectancy, education and per capita income. HCI is also a similar index but it links the five indicators to (future) productivity and income levels. In other words, it shows how improvements in the current education and health outcomes shape the productivity of the next generation of workers. HCI touches upon SDGs 3 and 4. 

Meanwhile, India