Namibia's future workforce at risk

08 November 2018 | Social Issues

The future productivity of Namibia's workforce may be at risk due to the country's poor health and education status.

Namibia outranks only 40 other countries globally on the Human Capital Index.

The index ranks Namibia 117th out of 157 countries worldwide and measures the amount of human capital that a child born today can expect to attain by the age of 18.

According to the index, children born in Namibia today will one day be only 43% as productive as they could have been if they had enjoyed complete education and full health.

The index measures the amount of human capital that children born in 2018 can expect to attain by age 18, based on the risks of poor education and poor health that prevail in their country.

The index is designed to highlight how improvements in the current education and health outcomes shape the productivity of the next generation of workers. It assumes that children born in a given year will experience current educational opportunities and health risks over the next 18 years.

It follows the trajectory from birth to adulthood of a child born in a given year.

In the poorest countries, there is a significant risk that children do not even survive to see their fifth birthday.

Even if they do reach school age, there is a further risk that they do not start school, let alone complete the full cycle of education through grade 12 that is the norm in rich countries.

The time they do spend in school may translate unevenly into learning, depending on the quality of their teachers and schools and the support they receive from family.

After the age of 18, they carry with them the lasting childhood effects of poor health and nutrition that limit physical and cognitive abilities as an adult.

The index indicates that 96 out of 100 children born in Namibia survive to the age of five.

A Namibian child who starts school at the age of four can expect to complete 8.9 years of school by their 18th birthday.

However, factoring in the quality of learning in Namibia, the expected years of school are equivalent to only 5.8 years. This means that there is a learning gap of 3.1 years.

The report says the quantity of education is measured as the number of years of school a child can expect to obtain by their 18th birthday, given the prevailing pattern of enrolment rates and assuming they start preschool at age four.

The best possible outcome is when children stay in school for 14 years.

High enrolment rates throughout the school system bring many rich countries close to the 14-year benchmark.

Average test scores from major international testing programmes range from around 600 in the best-performing countries to around 300 in the worst-performing.

To put these numbers in perspective, a score of roughly 400 corresponds to a benchmark of minimum proficiency set by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the largest international testing programme.

Less than half of students in developing countries meet this standard, compared with 86% in advanced economies. Students in Namibia score 407.

In Namibia, 71% of 15-year-olds will survive until age 60. This statistic is a proxy for the range of fatal and non-fatal health outcomes that a child born today would experience as an adult under current conditions in the country.

The index also states that 77 out of 100 children in Namibia are not stunted, while the 23% who are stunted are at risk of cognitive and physical limitations that can last a lifetime.

Globally, 56% of all children born today will grow up to be, at best, half as productive as they could be; and 92% will grow up to be, at best, 75% as productive as they could be. In the SADC region this figure stands at 40% of children born today.

ELLANIE SMIT