Investment in human capital over the past two decades has accounted for about half a percentage point in the annual growth rates of 16 emerging economies, Financing Education– Investment and Returns: Analysis of the World Education Indicators found.
But access to secondary and tertiary education, the key to building a knowledge-based workforce, is progressing slowly. In 2002, adults in the 16 countries surveyed spent an average 7.6 years in school, more than double the 3.4 years recorded in 1960. This was still almost three years less than the average 10.2 years in OECD countries. And at the current rate of increase, it will take another 30 years for some of these countries to reach present OECD educational duration.
The report found that the link between education and economic growth over the past 20 years was strongest in Argentina, Chile, Jamaica, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines and Uruguay. Malaysians, for example, spent an average 3.22 years in school in 1960 when per capita GDP was US$2,000. By 2000, the average time had increased to 9.31 years, with GDP tripling to some US$6,000.
Results were more limited in Egypt, India and Tunisia, which started with “considerably lower levels of educational attainment” than the others surveyed. This suggests, the report says, that human capital plays a stronger role in the economic growth process once it reaches a critical threshold and that high levels of upper secondary and tertiary education are important for growth, too.
©OECD Observer No 236, March 2003