SINGAPORE (Sept 25): Singapore has risen 30 places over the last quarter-century to rank 13th among its global peers investing in education and healthcare in 2016, improving majorly from its 1990 ranking of 43rd.

This is according to the first internationally-comparable index of human capital by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, which offers a measure of expected human capital incorporating educational attainment, education quality/learning, functional health status, and survival for 195 countries from 1990-2016.

The index computes expected human capital similarly to life expectancy by applying current age- and sex-specific rates of survival, functional health status, education and learning to each nation’s population born each year.

The study Measuring human capita: A systematic analysis of 195 countries and territories, 1990 to 2016, is based on a systematic analysis of data from sources including government agencies, schools and health care systems. It was recently published in international medical journal The Lancet.  

In a press release on Tuesday, IHME says Singapore’s marked improvement comes from having 24 years of expected human capital, measured as the number of years a person can be expected to work in his/her years of peak productivity.

It takes into account life expectancy, functional health, years of schooling, as well as learning, which is based on average student scores on internationally comparable tests.

Overall, the city state’s residents had a 44 out of 45 years of life between the ages of 20 and 64; expected educational attainment of 12 years out of a possible of 18 years in school; and a learning score of 98 and a functional health score of 82, both out of 100.

The nation placed just behind Switzerland, ranked at 12th, and just ahead of Japan at 14th place.

Finland placed at the top, while Turkey showed the most dramatic increase in human capital between 1990 and 2016.

Aside from Singapore, other Asian countries highlighted by IHME that have shown notably improvement included Thailand, China and Vietnam, which the institute notes to have had faster economic growth over the period under review compared to peer countries with lower levels of human capital improvement.

Other findings showed that rankings for the 10 most populous countries in 2016, in addition to China, India and the US, were Indonesia (131), Brazil (71), Pakistan (164), Nigeria (171), Bangladesh (161), Russia (49) and Mexico (104).

Globally, IHME says there were also notable difference sin expected human capital by sex in 2016 where expected years lived between 20 and 64 years are greater in females than in males.

It found that health status also tended to be higher among females than males, with the exception of high-income countries measured.

Christopher Murray, director of IHME at the University of Washington, says these findings show an association between investments in education and health, and improved human capital and GDP which “policymakers ignore at their own peril”.

“As the world economy grows increasingly dependent on digital technology, from agriculture to manufacturing to the service industry, human capital grows increasingly important for stimulating local and national economies,” states Murray.

“Underinvesting in people may be driven by lack of policy attention to the levels of human capital. Such reporting [of regular, comparable reporting across all countries on human capital] over the next generation – as a way to measure investments in health and education – will enable leaders to be held accountable to their constituents,” he says.