"MENA countries urged to do more in investing in their human capital," syas WB
17/09/2020 11:58, TUNIS/Tunisia

(TAP) - In its latest Human Capital Index (HCI 2020) report released on Wednesday, the World Bank (WB) Group cautions that a child born today in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will be only 57% as productive when she grows up as she would be if she benefited from complete education and full health.

According to the report in which Tunisia kept its 0.52 position, MENA countries differ substantially in their human capital outcomes, which vary with country income levels and exposure to fragility and conflict.

“Wealthier states of the Gulf Cooperation Council have higher Human Capita Index (HCI) values (between 0.56 and 0.67), while conflict-affected states such as Yemen (0.37) and Iraq (0.41) lag behind,” the report reads.

The analysis finds that some countries, like Morocco, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, have improved their HCI values over the past decade, while others, like Tunisia, Jordan and Kuwait, have remained in place.

“Overall, countries in MENA tend to perform below countries in other regions at the same income level on the Human Capital Index,” the report said.

The 2020 index calculates the expected productivity of future workers and provides a snapshot of human capital outcomes right up to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It serves as a baseline to track changes in human capital and inform approaches to protecting and investing in people, through the pandemic and beyond.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic risks undoing the fragile progress that has been achieved in human capital outcomes, MENA countries must do more to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their investments in people," said WB Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Ferid Belhaj.

"We are committed to supporting MENA countries to recover, protect and extend their hard-won human capital gains, in addition to providing help to those in need during and after the pandemic," he added.

According to the report, utilisation of existing human capital is a major concern in the MENA region, as countries fail to translate the skills and productive potential of large proportions of their populations into economic growth.

The average MENA HCI value declines by more than a third (from 0.57 to 0.32) when accounting for the proportion of the working-age population who are employed.

MENA countries, in particular those in the GCC, have the world’s largest gender gap in utilisation rates, due to low labor force participation among women, especially those without tertiary education.

High youth unemployment rates contribute to under-utilisation of human capital and social tensions in many parts of the region.

Gender gaps remain wide in some MENA countries. The Human Capital Index for males (0.55) is lower than that for females (0.59) in MENA as a whole and in most countries in the region. “These differences are driven largely by boys' lower educational outcomes, with girls expected to complete more than half of an additional learning-adjusted year of school compared to boys (8.0 for girls versus 7.4 for boys),” the report indicated.

"Despite progress over the past decade, the findings in the 2020 Human Capital Index indicate that MENA countries could do much more to improve the state of human capital, its utilisation, and gender equality,’" said WB Regional Director for Human Development in MENA Keiko Miwa.

"COVID-19 presents risks but also opportunities to build back better the human capital in MENA,” the official added.

The (HCI) is an international metric that benchmarks key components of human capital across countries. Human capital consists of the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate over their lives

The 2020 update of the HCI incorporates the most recent available data to report HCI scores for 174 countries, adding 17 new countries to the index relative to the 2018 edition. The 2020 update uses new and expanded data for each of the HCI components, available as of March 2020.

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