A child born in Vietnam in 20202 will be 69 percent as productive when she grows up as she could be if she enjoyed complete education and full health. This is higher than the average for East Asia & Pacific region and lower middle income countries despite less spending on medicine, education and social security.
However, the Southeast Asian country is facing a challenge to improve its human capital index is the high proportion of stunted children. 25 out of 100 children are stunted, especially in ethnic minority groups and so are at risk of cognitive and physical limitations that can last a lifetime.
The World Bank Group’s 2020 Human Capital Index includes health and education data for 174 countries covering 98 percent of the world’s population up to March 2020. It provides a pre-pandemic baseline on the health and education of children.
The analysis shows that pre-pandemic, most countries had made steady progress in building human capital of children, with the biggest strides made in low-income countries.
Despite this progress, and even before the effects of the pandemic, a child born in a typical country could expect to achieve just 56 percent of their potential human capital, relative to a benchmark of complete education and full health.
The pandemic puts at risk the decade's progress in building human capital, including the improvements in health, survival rates, school enrollment, and reduced stunting. The economic impact of the pandemic has been particularly deep for women and for the most disadvantaged families, leaving many vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty," said World Bank Group President David Malpass. “Protecting and investing in people is vital as countries work to lay the foundation for sustainable, inclusive recoveries and future growth."
Due to the pandemic’s impact, most children, more than 1 billion, have been out of school and could lose out, on average, half a year of schooling, adjusted for learning, translating into considerable monetary losses. Data also shows significant disruptions to essential health services for women and children, with many children missing out on crucial vaccinations.
With regard to gender, the analysis finds that human capital outcomes for girls are on average higher than for boys. However, this has not translated into comparable opportunities to use human capital in the labor market: on average, employment rates are 20 percentage points lower for women than for men, with a wider gap in many countries and regions.
Moreover, the pandemic is exacerbating risks of gender-based violence, child marriage and adolescent pregnancy, all of which further reduce opportunities for learning and empowerment for women and girls.