Post Mortem

Case for prioritising investment in human capital in Nagaland

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 11/24/2019 12:54:06 PM IST

 Technology today is disrupting the lives we lead in many ways. One common apprehension is job security particularly of jobs as we know today. The assumption generally is that automation will lead to loss of jobs.  While there is some truth in it, there is yet another dimension that is not widely known.  Whiletechnology will eventually replace low skilled, semi and unskilled jobs,the age of technology willusher ina host of innovative jobs whose nomenclature we may not yet know. According to a Research firm Gartner, more jobs will be created than lost by automation - Though 1.8 million jobs will be eliminated by 2020, but 2.3 million new jobs will be created by then. (STAMFORD, Conn., December 13, 2017).However, it is clear that the skills required for the new jobs will demand newer skill sets. A research report by Mckinsey Global Institute titled “Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: workforce transition in a time of automation” says that by 2030, 75 million to 375 million workers (3 to 14 percent of the global workforce) will need to switch occupational categories. Moreover, all workers will need to adapt, as their occupations evolve alongside increasingly capable machines.

In this context, the World Development Report 2019by World Bank is an interesting read. It alerts us to the urgent need for policy makers to prioritise investment in human capital as rapid uptake of automation will peg the premium on high-order cognitive skills across countries. Human capital is the asset that is created through building knowledge, skills enabling people to be productive members of society. The report points out that automation is reshaping work and the skills demanded for work and the demand for advanced cognitive skills and socio-behavioral skills is increasing, whereas the demand for narrow job-specific skills is waning. The World Bank has come up with a Human Capital Index (HCI) in the said report. This HCI measures how much human capital can a child born today expect to acquire by age 18, given the risks to poor health and poor education that prevail in the country where she was born - how current health and education outcomes will shape productivity for the next generation of workers.

So what are the ingredients to building human capital? The HCI lists three ingredients that reflect building blocks of the next generation’s human capital, namely , Survival (Will kids born today survive to school age - under-5 mortality rate), Education (How much school will they complete and how much will they learn? - Quality adjusted school years that is focused on learning outcomes as opposed to mere school enrolment /attendance)and Health (adult survival rate and the prevalence of childhood stunting).The Report advocates for strong skill foundation aimed at developing advanced cognitive skills, sociobehavioural skills, and skills predictive of adaptability. It alsoillustrates that the architecture of the brain forms from the prenatal period to age 5, and so this is an important stage for developing cognitive and socio-behavioral skills.

The following chart from Centre on the Developing Child, Harvard University also illustrates that much of the cognitive brain development in a child happens in the early years of life. 

The emotional and physical health, social skills, and cognitive-linguistic capacities that emerge in the early years are all important prerequisites for success in school and later in the workplace and community.

The short point is that humans would need to acquire higher cognitive skills and sociobehavioral skills that cannot be replicated by Machines or for humans to interact with advanced intelligent machines.Thus, access to effective quality healthcare services, nutrition and quality education beginningespeciallyat early years is the key.
The followingstatistics raises a red flag forboth State Policy makers and Implementers:
- Under 5 Mortality Rate for Nagaland is 37 (NFHS-IV) 
- Prevalence of stunting in children under age five in Nagaland is 29%. (Children in India,2018)Stunting is associated with cognitive and educational deficits in late adolescence. 
- Nagaland is among the top 7 states carrying the disease burden attributed to malnutrition in children.Of the total deaths in Nagaland, deaths of children between 0-14 years account for 11% out of which  31.8% is attributed to nutritional deficiencies (“India: Health of the Nation’s States — The India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative” ICMR, PHFI, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation ) 
- The literacy rate in 2011 stands at 79.6 (Office of RGI). However, this figure is for aged 7 years and above.
There are many programmes/interventions in place that have beenlaunched and supported by Government of India to address these challenges on the health and nutrition front.So the task is more their effective implementation backed by close monitoring. Apart from targeted interventions in Health and Nutrition, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also released “Journey of the First 1000 Days” under the Rashtriya Bal SwasthyaKaryakram (RBSK) which is available at However, one critical area that is probably not so much in focus as it shouldbe is, perhaps, ensuring quality education. While Nagaland has improved one position, it ranks 7th out of 8 Small States in overall Performance and Rank in School Education Quality Index 2019 recently released by Niti Aayog. 
The dual strategy for Nagaland for fostering strong skill foundation must be – (i) Introducing and stressing on quality education in the early years particularly at pre primary school level and (ii) improving learning outcomes at primary and secondary levels.Earlier, in line with the thrust of governments across states toimprove“access” to education, the emphasis was on school enrolment and attendance. However, now States increasingly are shifting the focus on improving learning outcomes. Haryana Government’s ‘SakshamGhoshna’ programme, Delhi Government’s Chunauti 2018,Mission Buniyaadisetc are such initiatives.Nagaland must also proactively come up with a workable strategy to improve and measure learning outcomes.
This because the State Policy makers and Implementers owe it to the future generation to properly equip them so as to prepare them to face the challenges of their times.
(Limatula Yaden, 
Additional Director 
General, DGHRD, CBIC. The views expressed are personal)

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