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India ranked 158 in human capital rankings released by University of Washington

Hindustan Times | By
Sep 26, 2018 08:41 AM IST

The study claims that these rankings give us an idea about the number of years a worker can be expected to work at peak productivity levels between the ages of 20 and 64 years.

Demographic dividend is supposed to be a big propeller of India’s economic growth. However, a study released by University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) published in the international medical journal Lancet shows that India fares badly in terms of human capital rankings in the world. In 2016, India was ranked 158 among 195 countries on the list. To be sure, there has been some improvement in the state of things. India was ranked 162 in the list in 1990. The 1990 rankings have been recalculated with the present study.

Factory workers at a factory in Naroda on April 5.(AFP File Photo)
Factory workers at a factory in Naroda on April 5.(AFP File Photo)

The rankings are based on four key parameters: life expectancy, years of schooling, learning and functional health. Each of these parameters is based on different indices. For example, one of the factors on which learning ranks are based is performance on international student assessment standards.

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Similarly, health rankings are based on seven indicators – wasting, stunting, anaemia, cognitive impairment, vision loss, hearing loss and incidence of certain infectious diseases. The study also gives separate sub-rankings on each of the four indicators. India fares worst in health rankings and best in education rankings. Not only does India fare badly overall, it is also a laggard in both South Asia and Brics countries. (Chart 1 and 2) 

Why are these rankings important? The study claims that these rankings give us an idea about the number of years a worker can be expected to work at peak productivity levels between the ages of 20 and 64 years. The global average on this count is 13.6 years. For India this value is just 6.5 years, around one-third the value of China (20 years). To be sure, this value has increased significantly for India from the 1990 level, when it was just 2.7. The improvement, although far from adequate, is in keeping with trends from surveys such as the National Family and Health Surveys and increasing educational enrolment levels in India.

Dr Rajeev Gupta, chairman of the Academic Research Unit at the Rajasthan University of Health Sciences, said that an increase in non-communicable diseases (measured in the study as vision and hearing losses) could be responsible for India’s poor showing in the health rankings despite the improvement in under nutrition levels.

Former union health secretary in the government of India, Sujatha Rao, said India was paying a heavy price by continuing to neglect investment in health. India spends just 1.2% of its Gross Domestic Product on public health, much less than other developing countries. “Despite evidence staring at us, we still flounder,” Rao said.

The new human capital study suggested increased spending in healthcare and education. “Nations failing to invest in health and education are at risk of stagnating economies and lower per capita GDP,” it said.

IHME director Christopher Murray was quoted in press as saying that underinvestment in people may be driven by lack of policy attention to the levels of human capital. “Such reporting over the next generation – as a way to measure investments in health and education – will enable leaders to be held accountable to their constituents,” he said.

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