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Asian majors dominate top 5 on World Bank’s human capital index

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In a global measure of how well a country is developing its next generation of workers, Singapore has emerged first among 157 countries, followed by Korea, Japan and Hong Kong in the top four.

Launched in Bali at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and The World Bank Group, the Human Capital Index (HCI) measures the human capital that a child born today can expect to attain by age 18, given the risks to poor health and poor education in the country they reside.

The HCI has three components:

  • Survival: A measure of whether children survive from birth to school age (age five)
  • Education: A measure of expected years of quality-adjusted school, which combines information on the quantity and quality of education
  • Health: Two broad measures of health—stunting rates and adult survival rates.

The top 10 countries ranked on the Human Capital Index*:

1. Singapore – 0.88
2. Korea – 0.84
3. Japan – 0.84
4. Hong Kong SAR – 0.82
5. Finland – 0.81
6. Ireland – 0.81
7. Australia – 0.80
8. Sweden – 0.80
9. Netherlands – 0.80
10. Canada – 0.80

Among Asian economies, apart from the top four, the following are the results*:

25. Macao – 0.76
46. China – 0.67
48. Vietnam – 0.67
55. Malaysia – 0.62
65. Thailand – 0.60
74. Sri Lanka – 0.58
84. Philippines – 0.55
87. Indonesia – 0.53
100. Cambodia – 0.49
102. Nepal – 0.49
115. India – 0.44

*How to read the index

The health and education components of the index are combined in a way that reflects their contribution to worker productivity, with the resulting index ranges between 0 and 1.

So a country in which a child born today can expect to achieve both full health (no stunting and 100% adult survival) and full education potential (14 years of high-quality school by age 18) will score a value of 1 on the index. Therefore, a score of 0.70 signals that the productivity as a future worker for a child born today is 30% below what could have been achieved with complete education and full health.


Report excerpts: Singapore’s performance on the HCI

  • It is difficult to imagine that in 1950 adults in Singapore had, on average, just two years of formal schooling. By paying sustained attention to human development, Singapore is now among the world’s highest performers on learning and in the Human Capital Index.
  • In Singapore, 98% of students reach the international benchmark for basic proficiency in secondary school; in South Africa, only 26% of students meet that standard. Essentially, all of Singapore’s secondary school students are prepared for a postsecondary education and the world of work, while almost three-quarters of South Africa’s young people are not.

Graphics / HCI



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