The World Bank ranked India 115th among 157 countries in its first-ever Human Capital Index (HCI), drawing sharp criticism from the government on Thursday. India’s neighbours Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka were better placed at 106th, 102nd and 74th position, respectively. The index took into account parameters like child mortality, health and education.
“The Government of India has decided to ignore the HCI and will continue to undertake its path-breaking programme for human capital development aiming to rapidly transforming quality and ease of life for all children,” a statement from the finance ministry said.
The World Bank gave India a score of 0.44 of the total 1.0, lower than the average for its income-level countries. In simple terms, it shows that the children born in India today will be 44 per cent as productive when they grow up as they could be if they enjoyed complete education and full health. Girls fared slightly better at 0.45 than boys, who scored 0.43.
Globally, 56 per cent of all children born today will grow up to be, at best, half as productive as they could be, and 92 per cent will grow up to be 75 per cent as productive as they could be.
The ground that India has to recover could be gauged from the fact that the topmost country, Singapore, scored 0.88.
The index basically measures the amount of human capital that a child born today can expect to attain by 18. It conveys the productivity of the next generation of workers compared to a benchmark of complete education and full health.
The index is made up of five indicators: the probability of survival to age five, a child’s expected years of schooling, harmonised test scores as a measure of quality of learning, adult survival rate (fraction of 15-year-olds that will survive to age 60), and the proportion of children who are not stunted.
India got 0.96 score on the first parameter — the probability of survival to age 5. On the second parameter, it says a child who starts school at age 4 can expect to complete 10.2 years of school by their 18th birthday. However, factoring in what children actually learn, the expected years of school are only 5.8 in India.
On other parameters, the index reveals that 83 per cent of 15-year-olds will survive until 60. Also, 62 of the 100 children are not stunted and 38 of the 100 children are stunted.
Reacting strongly to these observations, the finance ministry said the HCI score for India did not reflect the key initiatives that were being taken for developing human capital in the country.
It named programmes such as Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, Ayushman Bharat Programme, Swachh Bharat Mission, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, and Pradhan Mantri Jandhan Yojana to counter the World Bank’s findings. It also said Aadhaar identification system had enabled India to make direct cash transfer of about $ 64 billion to citizens, improving governance and social protection. The ministry said these initiatives were transforming human capital in India at a rapid pace and very comprehensively touching upon the lives of millions of people living in rural and tribal areas.
“The qualitative aspects of improved governance that have a strong correlation with human capital development cannot be and have not been captured by the way the HCI has been constructed,” it said.
The gap in data and methodology overlooked the initiatives taken by a country and, in turn, portrayed an incomplete and predetermined picture, the government observed.
The HCI is part of the World Development Report (WDR). As part of this report, the World Bank has launched a Human Capital Project (HCP). The HCP is claimed to be a programme of advocacy, measurement, and analytical work to raise awareness and increase demand for interventions to build human capital.
“The hasty introduction of the HCI by the World Bank may deny the larger HCP its due, despite the lofty objectives of the latter. With the emphasis on country scores and rankings, the HCI could trivialise the importance of the HCP,” the finance ministry said.