Pakistan’s potential for human capital

Pakistan has a low level of human capital, which has only slightly increased over the years. According to a recent World Bank research, Pakistan has a low Human Capital Index (HCI) of 0.41, which is poor both in absolute and relative terms. This suggests that a newborn born in Pakistan today will only be 41% as productive as they might be if they had access to comprehensive education and good health. In fact, Pakistan’s human capital performance is closer to that of Sub-Saharan Africa, where the average HCI is 0.40. On the other hand, disparities in the results of human capital between the affluent and the poor, men and women, rural and urban regions, and across the provinces have remained and even grown over time. Pakistan also significantly underutilizes its people resources, partly because fewer women are participating in the work sector.

With information like this, we don’t need to persuade anybody that Pakistan is experiencing a human capital crisis. Seventy-five percent of Pakistan’s population, who are under 35, can still clearly recall the country’s deficiencies in the areas of basic healthcare and education. The federal and provincial governments, as well as Pakistan’s highly trained bureaucracy, are able to point to high rates of stunting, high rates of child death, high rates of children who are not enrolled in school, and poor learning levels as major problems. Every woman in the nation, and even many men, can cite specific instances of discrimination in the classroom, the numerous safety and social barriers that prevent women from entering the workforce, or lack of access to high-quality healthcare facilities. Additionally, all political leaders are acutely aware of the voter worries about the shortage of employment, which are reflected in the poor use of human capital, as seen in public opinion surveys.

However, we would want to emphasize once again that investing in human capital presents Pakistan with a very good chance and is also a very safe investment. Pakistan may concentrate on the fundamentals of sound governance in the areas of excellent health and education by starting from a very low foundation. In the Pakistan Human Capital Review study, multiple growth scenarios for the nation’s human capital are presented, including the status quo, catching up to peers, averaging out to low-middle income levels, or moving up to upper middle income levels. We were shocked by the enormity of the possible profits. But the realization that Pakistan is capable of doing this may have shocked us much more. Let’s attempt to explain why.

First, Pakistan has shown time and time again that it is capable of providing efficient services at scale. In this analysis, we show that despite a rapidly growing population, Pakistan has achieved significant progress over the last 30 years. This is due to the massive initiatives that have been introduced, such the program for lady health workers and the free, obligatory basic education. Other shining instances of Pakistan’s state competence include the nation-wide immunization drive, the country’s exceptionally successful control of the Covid-19 outbreak, and the quick and targeted monetary assistance provided to around 15 million people. When properly mobilized, Pakistan’s state apparatus can run efficient informative campaigns, provide services at scale in schools, basic health facilities, and even at the doorsteps of individual households.

Furthermore, there is a ton of information available on what to do and how to accomplish it. Family planning need to come first, and scaling up has been successful in Pakistan. For managing the number of children they want, both men and women need greater assistance and knowledge. If not, Pakistan will keep enhancing its educational and healthcare systems in order to provide mediocre services to its expanding population. Over the last three decades, Pakistan’s fertility rates have decreased, although not at the same pace as Bangladesh or Indonesia. Effective governments not only mobilize civil society and religious groups in their advocacy activities, but also coordinate population planning at all levels of government. Investments in low-cost school and classroom expansion, together with ensuring that every classroom has a qualified teacher, provide significant benefits for education. It has been shown that enrollment increases with cash transfer programs for teenage females. In the field of health, programs like “kangaroo motherhood” and the administration of iron and folic acid supplements together with numerous micronutrient supplements to expectant mothers are known to be efficient and affordable therapies.

Third, the reward is enormous. Through 2047, the 100th anniversary of Pakistan’s foundation, GDP per capita is predicted to rise by only 18%, even assuming the preceding three decades of advances can be maintained. However, Pakistan’s per capita GDP growth may nearly double, to 32%, if it can increase human capital investments and raise its HCI to the level of its rivals. Pakistan’s GDP per capita growth might increase by 144%, or eight times more than business as usual, if it increases both its human capital and its use of human capital by placing adults in jobs outside of subsistence farming, where the benefits from human capital are normally smaller. The country as a whole and the least fortunate stand to gain the most from such investments. The public sector also stands to lose the most if they don’t make these investments.

The difficulty with enhancing human capital results in Pakistan is that development has been too unequal and slowly. It is crucial to take long-term stewardship of increasing human capital results, make it a top national priority, and maintain consistency in order to remain on track. This may be the most difficult thing to do. Enhancing human capital requires long-term planning and dedication that go beyond the duration of any political or governmental cycle. We are aware that investments in human capital can take a while to pay off and that results are not always immediately apparent. Contrast that with other expenditures in physical infrastructure like highways, bridges, and other structures. It will take a lot of effort to increase female labor force participation since doing so calls for educating girls, addressing societal norms, participating in social networks, providing childcare, and assuring safety and security at work as well as on the commute to and from school and work.

Pakistan will need to make bold decisions to address its health and education problems and declare a human capital emergency as the epidemic and a disastrous flood worsen its already precarious status of human capital. A well-coordinated, cross-sectoral effort, a whole of society approach, across all federating provinces and regions, with a clear vision and alignment, are necessary for sustained investments in human capital. This may begin with Pakistan’s leaders at all political levels and extend all the way down to the teachers and healthcare providers in the nation’s small towns and villages. We are certain that this is feasible, that it will bring all Pakistanis together, and that it will strengthen the nation over the long and short terms. The country of Pakistan’s expanding working-age population may become healthier, better educated, more skilled, and more productive with the correct policies and sufficient investments in human capital. If the economy creates more and better employment, they can also make more money. Making this a top priority would guarantee that Pakistan realizes its enormous potential and prospers greatly as a country.

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