Covid-19 threatens gains in health and education sectors: WB

Published September 19, 2020
The Index includes health and education data for 174 countries — covering 98 per cent of the world’s population — up to March 2020. — AFP/File
The Index includes health and education data for 174 countries — covering 98 per cent of the world’s population — up to March 2020. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: ‘Human Capital Index’, a new analysis published by the World Bank, says that the Covid-19 pandemic has threatened hard-won gains in health and education sectors over the past decade, especially in poor countries.

Investments in human capital — the knowledge, skills and health that people accumulate over their lives — are keys to unlocking a child’s potential and to improving economic growth in every country, according to the just-published Index.

The Index includes health and education data for 174 countries — covering 98 per cent of the world’s population — up to March 2020, providing a pre-pandemic baseline on the health and education of children.

Most nations made steady progress before pandemic in building human capital of children

The analysis shows that pre-pandemic most countries had made steady progress in building human capital of children with the biggest strides made in low-income countries. Despite this progress and even before effects of the pandemic, a child born in a typical country could expect to achieve just 56pc of their potential human capital, relative to a benchmark of complete education and full health.

Due to the pandemic’s impact, most children — more than 1 billion — have been out of school and could lose out, on average, half a year of schooling, adjusted for learning, translating into considerable monetary losses. Data also shows significant disruptions to essential health services for women and children, with many children missing out on crucial vaccinations.

The 2020 ‘Human Capital Index’ also presents a decade-long view of the evolution of human capital outcomes from 2010 through 2020, finding improvements across all regions, where data are available, and across all income levels. These were largely due to improvements in health, reflected in better child and adult survival rates and reduced stunting, as well as an increase in school enrollment. This progress is now at risk due to the global pandemic.

The analysis finds that human capital outcomes for girls are on average higher than for boys. However, this has not translated into comparable opportunities to use human capital in the labor market: on average, employment rates are 20 percentage points lower for women than for men, with a wider gap in many countries and regions. Moreover, the pandemic is exacerbating risks of gender-based violence, child marriage and adolescent pregnancy, all of which further reduce opportunities for learning and empowerment for women and girls.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2020

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