The World Bank’s maiden Human Capital Review (HCR) for the Maldives found that a child born in the country today will be 59.6 percent as productive as they could be by age 18, if they had complete education and full health.

The HCR supports the government to measure a nation’s Human Capital Index (HCI) score, a metric that captures the health and education outcomes of the population and consists of three components: the likelihood that a child will survive from birth to school age; quantity and quality of education; and child stunting rates and adult survival rates.

The Maldives’ first national HCI score of 0.596 indicates that a Maldivian child born today is expected, on average, to be only 60 percent as productive as they could be with complete education and health, thus potentially losing 40 percent of their future productivity, the World Bank found.

However, in a global context, the Maldives performed relatively well, scoring higher than its regional (HCI 0.48), small-island nation (HCI 0.52), and income-group comparators (HCI 0.56), the global financial institution noted.

The Maldives’ score indicates that the country does have important human capital challenges to address, which reveal high levels of inequalities across geography and gender, to fulfil its full potential, the World Bank said.

In terms of ‘Quality of Education’ a Maldivian child can expect to complete 12.4 years of schooling but only 8.17 years of learning, implying a loss of 4.32 years due to poor quality of education—a loss that is higher than the average of upper-middle-income countries (UMICs) and small island states.

In terms of ‘Loss of Productivity’, at current levels of human capital, the Maldives loses 23 percent of its future productivity when they reach the labour market due to low employment rates, especially among women, which reflect the barriers and challenges that women face in the labor market.

In terms of ‘Significant Spatial Inequalities in Human Capital Outcomes’, according to the World Bank, a child born in the nation’s capital Malé can expect to achieve 64 percent of their full potential by age 18, while a child born in the Central Region can expect to achieve only 54 percent, with all regions other than Malé having an HCI lower than the national average.

The Maldives’ challenges are compounded by country-wide structural risks such as climate change, which poses a compounding and existential threat, the agency said, going on to highlight that the Maldivian economy is heavily dependent on tourism, making the country highly vulnerable to shocks with implications for human development progress. Climate change also affects the health and well-being of the population, especially poor and marginalised groups, who have less access to resources and services to cope with the impacts, the World Bank noted.

In order to address the shortcomings and reach optimum potential, the World Bank, in its review, makes several policy recommendations, such as:

  • Addressing geographic disparities in access to education
  • Focusing on improving the quality of education for all
  • Tackling the relatively high levels of stunting
  • Promoting better employment outcomes for Maldivian women
  • Increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of social sector spending

The review is part of the Human Capital Project (HCP), a global World Bank Group initiative that aims to raise awareness and mobilise action for investing in people as a key driver of economic growth and development.