South Asia’s human capital is the resilience it needs

Source– The post is based on the article “South Asia’s human capital is the resilience it needs” published in The Hindu on 3rd March 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Regional groupings

Relevance: Development issues related to South Asia

News- Pandemics, economic slumps and extreme weather events have undermined the developmental gains in South Asia since 2020.

What is the human capital advantage of South Asia?

South Asia’s people are its biggest asset. The region enjoys a high demographic dividend.

It has nearly half its population under the age of 24 and over one million young people set to enter the labour force every month until 2030.

What are the human capital related challenges faced by South Asia?

South Asia is also home to over one third of the world’s stunted children. A child born in the region today is expected to attain only 48% of their full productive potential by the age of 18.

South Asian governments on average spend just 1% of GDP on health and 2.5% on education. In comparison, the global average is 5.9% on health and 3.7% on education.

COVID­19 pandemic further pushed an additional 35 million people across South Asia into extreme poverty. It has dealt an unprecedented blow to the region’s human capital.

Pandemic has led to rise in learning poverty. Around the world, on average, schools remained closed for between 2020 and 2022 for 141 days. But, in South Asia they were shut for 225 days.

It increased South Asia’s learning poverty from 60% to 78%. The poorest and most vulnerable people fell further behind. For example, in Bangladesh, the poorest students lost 50% more in terms of learning than the richest students.

What is the way forward to improve human capital in South Asia?

There is a need for well designed and implemented interventions. They can make a difference if governments act fast. Recent evidence suggests that even simple and low­ cost education programmes can lead to sizable gains in skills.

In Bangladesh, for example, attending a year of additional preschool through two­ hour sessions significantly improved literacy, numeracy, and social­ development scores.

A new World Bank study notes that health, education, and skills people acquired at various stages of life, build and depend on each other. Human development interventions must recognise and exploit these overlapping connections. They should be agile, resilient and adaptive.

A well functioning human development system must take faster actions during a crisis. It ensures that essential services such as health care and learning remain uninterrupted, and have the flexibility to evolve as needs change.

Data and technology play a crucial role in the delivery of services. Human development systems should ensure they are effectively used.

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