Pakistan is a country of 220 million plus people. It has 65 percent youth, which is a blessing. Regretfully, Pakistan is unable to convert this huge human resource into human capital. Country is struggling to find a viable option or solution to overcome the manic of poor human capital. Pakistan is ranked at 134th place even below the Afghanistan, among 157 countries, on human capital index. The ranking is developed on the basis of post birth indicators, if we include pre-birth indicators, Pakistan will may further slide down on the ranking table. As Mireille Laroche, Marcel Mérette, 1999, defined human capital as mix of pre-birth and post-birth set of capabilities and abilities. The pre-birth stage is dependent on health and diet (food) of mother, and medical facilities for mother. Food, water and health has relevance in both stages and education and skill are important for post birth stage.
The performance of country on pre and post birth indicators is quite poor. Pakistan is ranked among countries with poor nutrition and food security status and health facilities. According to SDPI report 2013, 58.8 percent population is food insecure. Pakistan’s ranking on health index is 154th among the 195 countries. Availability of safe drinking water is another problem. The safe water is important because it plays a leading role in the development of brain. World Bank report 2019 stated that 64 percent population does not have access to safe drinking water. Education and skill development sectors’ performance is also very low. Lancet report 2018 showed that Pakistan stands at 164th position among 195 countries. The breakdown of data further shows that the state of these indicators is poor for women as compare to men. The leading factor of poor state of women is that families try to invest on breed winners and ignore the guardians of future, the women.
The most important element would be to restore the dignified status of women according to true Islamic values and laws. Dignity, sense of respect and security are key elements to improve the status
There can be many reasons of poor human capital but the most prominent are 1) weak institutional and governance response and 2) poor status of women in society. Hence, to improve the status of human capital or bring any meaningful change, Pakistan will have to work on these two fundamental areas.
Institutional and governance capacity is a major contributor to modest human capital development. Institutions at larger extent fails to provide pre- and post-birth pre-requisites of human capital. It is evident from the poor state of food security, safe drinking water, education and health services. Moreover, institutions also could not deliver according to the need of women and women are facing discrimination and maltreatment in many areas. It shows that state does not give importance to human capital and contributors to human capital.
State needs to amend its attitude toward human capital. It should try to understand the importance of human capital and its role in development of country. It acts as locomotive to steer the process of development and prosperity. Poor human capital will not only affect the production or service sectors but also the government and governance. The poor decision making, corruption and fear to make decision also emerges from the poor human capital. The poor decision making at policy level further complicate the situation. Thus, the institutional and governance system will have to change. The starting point will be that government bring back education and health to public sector. Government will have to move from the status of regulator to service provider. Government will have to take it as human right. Private sector has turned these sectors into profit minting machines. The concept of human capital has been lost somewhere. Simultaneously, the State will also have to take care of food and safe drinking water requirement of population.
The other major issue and the most important factor is poor state of women. It is well recognized fact that women are the first and foremost important player to develop the quality human capital, in pre-birth and post-birth stages. The prevailing health condition and status of women have lasting impact on the quality of human capital. It has been proved by many studies that poor status leads to poor cognitive development, which contribute to lower learning skill, personal development, social and economic development.
Hence, Pakistan will also have to put efforts to improve the status of women. The first step would be to recognize that woman is lynchpin of the whole process of human capital. It is woman who can ensure foundation of quality human capital through good health and proper training of a child. As it is saying, a well-trained child with better morals and ethics lead to better person in adulthood. Famous saying of Napoleon “give me good mothers and I shall give you great nation” also indicates to the same direction. Unfortunately, the role of women has been undermined in Pakistan. Women have been marginalized and they are struggling to find their right place. Women have been exploited at different names like religion, women rights, liberalism, and others. These all indicators led to bad quality of human capital.
Therefore, government will have to focus on it. Women will have to be given opportunities for better education, health facilities and taken care of dietary needs. However, the most important element would be to restore the dignified status of women according to true Islamic values and laws. Dignity, sense of respect and security are key elements to improve the status. The problem of dignity and respect is not only confined to poor, it is also prevalent in middle and upper class. Therefore, the instruments and tools must be devised for all sections of society.
Pakistan needs to understand that “a secure and dignified woman can lay the foundation of quality human capital and secure and dignified nation”. If Pakistan fails to concentrate on this then all other investments would be destined to be failed and it will be waste of resources.
This article was originally published at: https://dailytimes.com.pk/603217/human-capital-role-of-women-daily-times/
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.