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A Vietnamese child, once grown, would be only 67% as productive: WB

A child born in Vietnam today will be only 67% as productive on attaining adulthood as he or she would have been if a complete education and proper health had been ensured during childhood, the World Bank Group stated in a new report launched today, October 11, at the World Bank-International Monetary Fund Annual Meetings in the Indonesian resort of Bali.

Students are in a primary school in the outlying district of Binh Chanh, HCMC
Students are in a primary school in the outlying district of Binh Chanh, HCMC

The Human Capital Index (HCI) showed that 56% of children born today across the world will lose more than half their potential lifetime earnings because governments are not currently making effective investments in their people to ensure a healthy, educated and resilient population ready for the workplace of the future.

Human capital – the knowledge, skills and health that people accumulate over their lives – has been a key factor behind the sustained economic growth and poverty reduction rates of many countries in the 20th century, especially in East Asia.

“For the poorest people, human capital is often the only capital they have,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement. “Human capital is a key driver of sustainable, inclusive economic growth, but investing in health and education has not gotten the attention it deserves. This index creates a direct line between improving outcomes in health and education, productivity and economic growth. I hope that it drives countries to take urgent action and invest more – and more effectively – in their people.”

“The bar is rising for everyone,” Kim added. “Building human capital is critical for all countries, at all income levels, to compete in the economy of the future.”

As many as 98 out of 100 children born in Vietnam can survive to age 5. A child who starts school at age 4 can expect to complete 12.3 years of school by his or her 18th birthday, according to the report.

Students in Vietnam score 519 on a scale where 625 represents advanced attainment and 300 represents minimum attainment.

The HCI shows that countries that have successfully managed to align support around reforms have seen impressive levels of improvement.

For example, Vietnam has achieved a meteoric rise in learning, and it recently topped the average Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) score by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Although Vietnamese children can expect to complete 12.3 years of preprimary, primary and secondary school by age 18, when years of schooling are adjusted for quality of learning, this is only equivalent to 10.2 years: a learning gap of 2.1 years.

Across Vietnam, 88% of 15-year-olds will survive until age 60. This statistic is a proxy for the range of fatal and nonfatal health outcomes that a child born today would experience as an adult under current conditions.

Some 75 out of 100 Vietnamese children are not stunted. This means 25 out of 100 children are stunted and are at risk of cognitive and physical limitations that can last a lifetime.

Between 2012 and 2017, the HCI value for Vietnam increased from 0.64 to 0.67. In 2017, Vietnam’s HCI was higher than the average for its region and income group, the report revealed.

Vietnam’s experience illustrates the potential benefits of mapping pathways of change. The country’s schoolchildren scored in the top quarter of the mostly middle- and high-income countries that participated in the 2012 and 2015 PISA.

This performance is remarkable in view of Vietnam’s level of per capita income. Understanding this success could provide important lessons for ensuring that schooling achieves learning, according to the Washington-based organization.

By improving their human capital, people can become more productive, flexible and innovative. Investments in human capital have become increasingly important as the nature of work has evolved in response to rapid technological change.

By integrating with global value chains, Vietnamese workers developed their foreign language abilities in the 2000s, building additional human capital that allows them to expand into other markets.

The Index is part of the World Bank Group’s Human Capital Project, which recognizes human capital as the driver of inclusive growth. In addition to the Index, the Human Capital Project includes a program to strengthen research on and measurement of human capital, as well as provide support to countries to accelerate progress in human capital outcomes.