Students study for their final year exams in the Zamalek neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt (AP)
Egypt ranked 104 out of 157 countries in the World Bank’s newly launched Human Capital Index (HCI), which measures the amount of human capital that a child born today can expect to attain by age 18.
It measures the productivity of the next generation of workers compared to a benchmark of complete education and full health.
The index is made up of five indicators: the probability of survival at age five; a child’s expected years of schooling; harmonised test scores as a measure of quality of learning; adult survival rate (fraction of 15-year-olds that will survive to age 60); and the proportion of children who are not stunted.
Globally, 56 per cent of all children born today will grow up to be at best half as productive as they could be, and 92 per cent will grow up to be at best 75 per cent as productive as they could be, the HCI says.
Egypt scored 0.88 out of the possible one. The report shows that 98 out of 100 children born in Egypt survive to age five, and a child who starts school at age four can expect to complete 11.1 years of school by his or her 18th birthday.
However, when years of schooling are adjusted for quality of learning, this is only equivalent to 6.3 years when compared against the global benchmark. This creates a learning gap of 4.8 years, the HCI report says.
The test scores of students in Egypt are also low, as they score 356 on a scale where 625 represents advanced attainment and 300 represents minimum attainment.
As for the adult survival rate, across Egypt 85 per cent of 15-year-olds will survive until age 60, the report says. 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.
Meanwhile, 78 out of 100 children are not stunted, while 22 out of 100 children are stunted, and so are at risk of cognitive and physical limitations that can last a lifetime.
The report further shows that the HCI for girls in Egypt is higher than for boys.
Overall, Egypt’s HCI in 2017 is lower than the average for the region but slightly higher than the average for its income group.
Nonetheless, its HCI is still lower than what would be predicted for its income level, the report says.
Among the Arab states, Bahrain comes first, ranked 47, followed by the United Arab Emirates, ranked 49, and Oman, placed at 54. Globally, Singapore, South Korea and Japan top the Index, while Niger, South Sudan, and Chad made up the bottom three.
The report says that government interventions can make a big difference to improving health and education services. It says that individuals and families often cannot afford the costs of acquiring human capital and that many disadvantaged families want to invest in better healthcare and education for their children but cannot afford to do so.
It says that cash-transfer programmes have improved the health and education of millions of children in low- and middle-income countries, even when these have provided only partial subsidies for the cost of schooling.
“Such programmes can improve people’s incentives to invest in human capital when they make its long-term benefits salient or provide mechanisms to make good choices binding,” the report says.
It adds that governments have a vital role to play in building human capital, as providers of healthcare, education and financing to ensure equitable access to opportunities and as regulators of accreditation and the quality-control of private providers.
However, while most governments commit a significant share of their budgets to education and healthcare, public services are often too low in quality to generate major human capital, the report says.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 18 October, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Productivity disappointments