The United Kingdom ranks 31st in the world for its investments in education and health care as measurements of its commitment to economic growth, according to the first-ever scientific study ranking countries for their levels of human capital. The nation placed just behind Poland (ranked 30th) and just ahead of Croatia (ranked 32nd). The United States ranked 27th, down 21 places since 1999. Finland is in first place in the ranking, and Niger, South Sudan and Chad are equal last.
“Our findings show the association between investments in education and health and improved human capital and GDP – which policymakers ignore at their own peril,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. “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.”
The World Bank President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, defines human capital as “the sum total of a population’s health, skills, knowledge, experience, and habits.” It is a concept that recognizes that not all labor is equal, and the quality of workers can be improved by investing in them.
The UK’s ranking of 31st in 2016 represents a decline from its 1990 ranking of 27th. It comes from having 22 years of expected human capital, measured as the number of years a person can be expected to work in the years of peak productivity, taking into account life expectancy, functional health, years of schooling, and learning.
Overall, UK residents had 44 out of a possible 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 88 and a functional health score of 87, both out of 100. Learning is based on average student scores on internationally comparable tests. Components measured in the functional health score include stunting, wasting, anemia, cognitive impairments, hearing and vision loss, and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.