India stands behind Sudan and ahead of Namibia when it comes to its investments in education and healthcare mapped as a measurement of its commitment to economic growth, according to a study on human capital undertaken by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Touted as the first ever scientific study of this nature, it ranked India at 158 of 195 countries and territories analysed using data from numerous sources, including government agencies, schools, and health care systems and over a 26 year period between 1990 and 2016. Other interesting details from the study included the ranking of United States at 27, down from its earlier ranking at 6 in similar comparative studies, while China was pegged at 44 and Pakistan at 164. The study has just been published in The Lancet.

“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 IHME at the University of Washington.

Last year, World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim asked IHME to develop a measurement to rank human capital as it could help governments and investors get an insight into the areas where investments were needed to improve health and education. He defined human capital as “the sum total of a population’s health, skills, knowledge, experience, and habits.” In other words, a recognition that all labour is not equal, and the quality of workers can be improved by investing in them.

Explaining India’s ranking of 158th in 2016, an improvement from its 1990 ranking of 162, an IHME note said that it came from seven 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, India’s residents had 39 out of a possible 45 years of life between the ages of 20 and 64; expected educational attainment of 10 years out of a possible of 18 years in school; and a learning score of 66 and a functional health score of 43, 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”, the note said.

Finland topped the study, while Turkey showed the most dramatic increase in human capital. Asian countries that showed an improvement in the period included China, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam. Within Latin America, Brazil stood out for its improvement, the IHME said, adding that all these countries showed a faster economic growth than peer countries with lower levels of human capital improvement.

Over the past quarter century, there has been limited progress in building human capital in selected countries that started at a high baseline. The US was ranked sixth in human capital in 1990 but dropped to 27th in 2016 because of minimal progress, particularly in educational attainment, which declined from 13 years to 12, the note explained.