Young people in the Europe and Central Asia region are being provided with the opportunities needed to grow into productive adults, thanks to continued investments in health and education during their childhood and teenage years, says the latest update of the World Bank’s Human Capital Index (HCI), which measures pre-pandemic human capital outcomes around the world.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic is threatening the gains made so far, as governments struggle to maintain health and education services in the face of restrictions to protect public health, including school closings.
Of the 48 countries in Europe and Central Asia included in the HCI 2020, 33 are among the upper-third in the world, and almost all are in the top half. These findings are broadly in line with the relatively high incomes of countries in the region, with richer countries able to invest more in basic education and health services than poorer countries. However, there are significant variations within the region. Among the region’s emerging and developing economies, a child born in Poland can expect to achieve 75 percent of the productivity of a fully educated adult in optimal health. In contrast, a child born in Tajikistan, can expect to achieve only 50 percent productivity.
“Governments in Europe and Central Asia have done well in prioritizing investments in health and education, which are key drivers of growth and development. The challenges unleashed by Covid-19, however, require an even stronger policy response, including greater use of technology to improve service delivery and enhanced social assistance programs, to ensure that people receive quality education and health care,” said Anna Bjerde, World Bank Vice President for the Europe and Central Asia region.
Georgia has an overall HCI score of 0.57, which means that a child born in Georgia is expected to grow up to be only 57 percent as productive as they could be if they enjoyed complete education and full health. While the HCI score for 2020 is higher than the average for upper middle-income countries worldwide and above its 2010 value of 0.54, it is lower than the average for the Europe and Central Asia region. Increasing the quality of education reflected in international test scores will help Georgia to catch up with the regional average.
“As an early adopter of the Human Capital Project, Georgia is committed to improving the well-being of its future generations. Human capital development is a complex endeavor and, as we can see, the road ahead is fraught with challenges, but three decades of our fruitful partnership have shown that together we can tackle any challenge, which is why I’d like to reiterate the World Bank’s support for Georgia’s human capital reform agenda,” said Sebastian Molineus, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus. “Fortunately, we have an existing project to improve educational outcomes in Georgia, and we are currently engaging with the government to improve long-term health and social protection outcomes as well, providing a strong foundation to deliver tangible improvements over the coming years.”
This year’s report includes a decade-long analysis of human capital development from 2010 to 2020 in 103 countries. Albania, Azerbaijan, and Russia are among the top 10 global improvers in progress made on health and education.
The World Bank is helping governments develop long-term solutions that will build more resilient, inclusive economies in the post-pandemic era. Examples of such work include Ukraine, where the World Bank is strengthening the country’s health response to Covid-19, including modernizing emergency departments and stroke units in 40 hospitals and training thousands of Ukrainian doctors. In Turkey, the World Bank is supporting the development of TV and digital content for blended teaching and learning when schools reopen.
In Georgia, the World Bank supports two projects that are critical for human capital development: the Innovation, Inclusion and Quality project, aimed at increasing access to preschool education, higher quality education, and improved learning environments; and the Log-in Georgia project, which sets out to bring fast and affordable broadband internet connection to nearly 500,000 people living in rural and hard-to-reach areas, making available such services as e-learning and telemedicine, both of which have proven to be invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regional achievements in health
Overall, health outcomes in the region are relatively good by global standards. Over the last 10 years, child mortality rates have dropped considerably, with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkey posting the largest improvements in child mortality. Similarly, child stunting rates have also dropped considerably, most notably in Albania, Azerbaijan, North Macedonia and Turkey.
Adult mortality rates have also declined significantly, with Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine posting the best improvements. However, adult mortality rates remain high in several countries.
Regional outcomes in education
The region’s basic education outcomes offer a mixed picture, although the region performs well by global standards. Over the past decade, expected years of schooling have increased, with Azerbaijan, Albania, Montenegro, Poland, and Russia making the largest gains – mainly due to improvements in secondary school and pre-primary enrollments. However, expected years of schooling also declined in a number of countries, including Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine.
Education quality, on average, has not improved across the region in the past decade. Countries that have seen declines in education quality include Bulgaria and Ukraine. Countries that made improvements in education quality include Albania, Moldova, and Montenegro.
Globally, the HCI report also calls for better measurement of data to enable policy makers in countries to target support to those who are most in need.
The World Bank’s HCI looks at a child’s trajectory, from birth to age 18, on such critical metrics as child survival (birth to age 5); expected years of primary and secondary education adjusted for quality; child stunting; and adult survival rates. HCI 2020, based on data up to March of this year, provides a crucial pre-pandemic baseline that can help inform health and education policies and investments for the post-pandemic recovery.