Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates once said, "In the long run, your human capital is your main base of competition.”
It's in the international ranking of this human capital, a measure for how the investment in health and education has translated into workforce productivity that India ranks 158th amongst 195 countries studied.
In a scientific study conducted by Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, measured the number of years a person can be expected to work in the years of peak productivity, taking into account life expectancy, functional health, years of schooling and learning.
Good news is that, for India this is an improvement of 4 points from 1990, when it ranked 162
nd. But India still lags behind countries like US, China, Sri Lanka and has human capital similar to Sudan and Nambia that have much lower GDPs.
The study says Indians work for just 7 years at their peak productivity between the age of 20 – 64. This is a progress from 3 years in 1990. But a look at countries with similar demographic or economic status like China, Brazil and Sri Lanka shows the lag.
While Finland scored the highest with 28 years of peak productivity, US with 23, China with 20 and Brazil with 16 years, way more productive that Indians.
In 2016, 44 countries surpassed more than 20 years of expected human capital, while 68 countries had fewer than 10 years. Despite this improvement in ranking and peak productive years, quality of health and education is dismal.
While Indians are spending an extra 4 years in school between 1990 and 2016, thanks to various programs like Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and Right to Education, India has the second lowest score for education quality in South Asia in 2016 with learning score of 66 out of a possible 100.
India stands just ahead of Afghanistan's score of 64 and clearly indicates how issues like lack of teachers and infrastructure, poor training can reduce quality of education.
On healthcare metrics between 1990 and 2016, Indians are expected to live an extra 5 years between the age of 20-64 and the functional health score has also improved from 36 in 1990 to 43 in 2016. However, Indian workforce is the unhealthiest in South Asia.
With poor access to healthcare and relatively high presence of diseases like malaria, HIV and TB means India has the lowest functional health score in South Asia.
India’s health score is lower than even Afghanistan’s 45 and similar to what Pakistan was 26 years ago. Amidst BRICS nations, India again stands at the bottom.
Amongst the 195 countries, Turkey showed the most dramatic increase in human capital between 1990 and 2016 and amongst Asian countries China, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam were notable.
The report also pointed out that nations with greater improvements in human capital also tend to have faster growth in per capita GDP.
Countries in the highest quartile of improvements in human capital between 1990 and 2016 had a 1.1 percent higher median yearly GDP growth rate than countries in the bottom quartile of human capital improvements.
For example, between 2015 and 2016, a 1.1 percent increase in the GDP growth rate in China equated to an additional $163 per capita; in Turkey, $268 per capita and in Brazil, $177 per capita.But is India investing enough? With just 1 percent of GDP on health -- even lower than an average low income country and just and 2.7 percent of GDP on education, isn't India risking its future economic growth? Will leave you with this question!