In its latest report on the Human Capital Index, released on September 16, the World Bank Group points out that a child born today in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region In adulthood, only 57% of the productive capacities that he or she could have accumulated having benefited from a complete education and perfect health will attain.
The 2020 index calculates the expected level of productivity of future workers and provides a snapshot of human capital performance just before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). It establishes a benchmark for monitoring the evolution of human capital and provides concrete elements to support the definition of policies to protect populations and invest in their future, during the pandemic and beyond.
According to this report, the performance of MENA countries in terms of human capital is very disparate and depends on the level of income and exposure to fragility and conflict. The richer states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) show higher values (HCI index between 0.56 and 0.57), lagging behind countries in conflict situations, such as Yemen (0.37) and ‘Iraq (0.41).
Some countries – United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Oman for example – have improved their performance for ten years, unlike others where the index has not changed, such as Jordan, Kuwait or Tunisia. Overall, and at identical income levels, MENA countries perform worse in terms of human capital than countries in other regions.
« As the pandemic threatens to wipe out fragile human development progress, MENA countries must do more to improve the effectiveness of investments in their populations “, highlighted Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa region. « In addition to helping all those who need it, during and after the pandemic, we are committed to supporting MENA countries so that they can recover these hard-won gains, consolidate them and extend them. »
The use of existing human capital remains problematic in the MENA region, according to the report, as countries fail to translate the skills and productive potential of entire swathes of their populations into economic growth. The average HCI value for the MENA region drops by more than a third (from 0.57 to 0.32) when the index takes into account the share of the working-age population actually employed. Due to the low rate of participation of women in the labor force, especially among graduates of higher education, MENA countries and especially those of the GCC, show the largest gap in male / female utilization rates. The high rate of youth unemployment explains the underutilization of human capital and social tensions in many parts of the region.
In some countries, the gender gaps remain significant. The human capital index for men (0.55) is lower than for women (0.59) at the regional level and in most MENA countries. These differences can be attributed mainly to the poorer educational results of boys, with girls completing more than half of an additional year of education adjusted for learning compared to boys (8.0 against 7.4).
« Despite the progress made over the past decade, the results of the 2020 Human Capital Index show that MENA countries still have a long way to go to improve their level of human capital, its use and gender equality. », Indicates Keiko Miwa, Regional Director for Human Development at the World Bank. « The pandemic creates risks but it could also be an opportunity to better rebuild the human capital of MENA countries. From Egypt’s ambitious educational reform – which was able to quickly opt for distance learning at the first signs of the pandemic – to emergency response operations to support health and social protection systems in Djibouti, Jordan, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in Yemen and elsewhere, we have supported countries, and we will continue to do so, so that they can realize their full development potential by relying on enhanced human capital. »
The Human Capital Index measures and compares the main components of human capital on a global scale – namely the amount of knowledge and skills and the health that an individual accumulates throughout his life. Higher human capital is correlated with higher incomes, both for individuals and for countries, and with stronger social cohesion. It is an essential lever for establishing sustainable growth and reducing poverty.
This 2020 update of the human capital index incorporates the latest data available for 174 countries, i.e. 17 more countries than in the 2018 edition. It is based on new and enriched data series for each of the dimensions of the index available in March 2020. As in the 2018 edition, these data are taken from official sources and have undergone a careful process of analysis and processing.