By Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan
THE PHILIPPINES’ human capital improved over the past six years, according to the World Bank, which said the country improved on this count better than expected though it still fell short of the regional average due to productivity gaps.
The Washington-based multilateral lender on Thursday launched its The Human Capital Project, which shows that the Philippines’ Human Capital Index (HCI) stood at 0.55 in 2017, from 0.49 in 2012.
The Philippines placed at the bottom half of 157 economies, ranking 84th in the HCI that was topped by Singapore, South Korea and Japan.
It also placed 14th among 24 East Asia and Pacific economies.
The HCI is based on indicators related to survival, schooling and health.
A reading closer to 1 reflects better human capital status.
“The Philippines’ HCI is lower than the average for its region but higher than the average for its income group,” the World Bank said.
“In 2017, the HCI for the Philippines is higher than what would be predicted for its income level.”
“Children in the Philippines can expect to complete 12.8 years of pre-primary, primary and secondary school by age 18. However, when years of schooling are adjusted for quality of learning, this is only equivalent to 8.4 years: a learning gap of 4.4 years,” the World Bank said in its report.
It also said that 80% of the population who are 15 years old is likely to survive until age 60, and that 33 out of 100 children are stunted, or at risk of cognitive and physical limitations that can last a lifetime.
The World Bank also found out that girls had higher HCIs than boys across all indicators, getting 0.58 overall, versus 0.52.
“The Government of Philippines recognizes these challenges and has initiated critical reforms to improve human capital in the country,” said Mara K. Warwick, World Bank Country Director for Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand, said in a statement.
“Policy makers have introduced universal kindergarten, created senior high school, provided greater funding for basic education, and expanded the Pantawid Pamilya Program, which has boosted school attendance among the poor.
The report noted that “programs 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.”
“Young people may not want to stay in school or take care of their health because they lack self-control or do not fully appreciate the benefits of education and good health,” the report read, adding that “[g]oing forward, key policy priorities in the Philippines are reducing stunting and improving the effectiveness of teachers to boost learning.”
Sought for comment, National Economic and Development Authority Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Rosemarie G. Edillon said in an e-mail: “Between 2012 an 2017, we increased our human capital investments: the 4Ps (cash transfer program) which increased enrolment rate and the health-seeking behavior among the poor, and the introduction of the K-12 which increased the expected years of schooling.”
She added that the Duterte administration’s free tuition fee for tertiary education “could further increase the expected years of school.”
“We have also formulated the Philippine Plan of Action on Nutrition which includes programs to ensure the proper nutrition of children especially during the first 1,000 days,” Ms. Edillon added.
“This will improve the survivability index.”