By David Kipkorir
Kenya has been ranked 139th in the world for its investments in education and health care as measurements of its commitment to economic growth. This is the first-ever scientific study ranking countries for their levels of human capital.
The study was undertaken by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, United States. Titled, “Measuring human capital: A Systematic Analysis of 195 Countries and Territories, 1990 to 2016”, the study was published in the international medical journal, The Lancet.
The study is based on a systematic analysis of an extensive array of data from numerous sources, including government agencies, schools, and health care systems. In the survey, Kenya was placed just behind Timor-Leste (138th) and just ahead of Myanmar (140th). The United States ranked 27th while Sudan came 157th. Kenya’s ranking of 139th in 2016 represents a drop from its 1990 ranking of 137th.
It comes from having eight years of expected human capital, measured as 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. Overall, Kenya’s residents had 38 out of a possible 45 years of life between the ages of 20 and 64; expected educational attainment of 11 years out of a possible of 18 years in school; and a learning score of 66 and a functional health score of 54, both out of 100.
Learning is based on average student scores on internationally comparable tests. Components measured in the functional health score include stunting, wasting, anaemia, cognitive impairments, hearing and vision loss, and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.
The researchers said their calculation was based on systematic analysis of 2,522 surveys and censuses providing data on years of schooling; testing scores on language, math, and science; and health levels related to economic productivity. The study places Finland at the top with Turkey showing the most dramatic increase in human capital; and China, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam with notable improvements.
The greatest increase among subSaharan African countries was in Equatorial Guinea. “Our findings show association between investments in education and health and improved human capital and GDP-which policymakers ignore at their own peril”, said Dr Christopher Murray, Director of IHME.
Health, education advocates, economists and others stakeholders are advised to use the findings as evidence to argue for greater attention to-and resources for-improving their country’s human capital. “Underinvesting in people may be driven by lack of policy attention to the levels of human capital”, Murray said.
Niger, South Sudan, and Chad all ranked lowest in 2016 at 2 years, followed by Burkina Faso and Mali (each with 3 years). In 2016, 44 countries surpassed more than 20 years of expected human capital, while 68 countries had fewer than 10 years. The report says health status tends to be higher among females than males, with the exception of high-income countries.
In terms of the overall measure, for countries below 10 years of expected human capital, rates of human capital tend to be higher in males, while countries above 10 years tend to have higher expected human capital for females.