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PRESS RELEASE September 16, 2020

Amid the Pandemic, Human Capital Gains in Albania can be Sustained by Expanded and Better Targeted Investment in Education, and Health Care

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2020 – Young people in the Europe and Central Asia region are being provided with the opportunities needed to grow into productive adults, thanks to continued investments in health and education during their childhood and teenage years, says the latest update of the World Bank’s  Human Capital Index (HCI), which measures pre-pandemic human capital outcomes around the world.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic is threatening the gains made so far, as governments struggle to maintain health and education services in the face of restrictions to protect public health, including school closings. 

This year’s report includes a decade-long analysis of human capital development from 2010 to 2020 in 103 countries. Of the 48 countries in Europe and Central Asia included in the HCI 2020, 33 are among the upper-third in the world, and almost all are in the top half. 

“Governments in Europe and Central Asia have done well in prioritizing investments in health and education, which are key drivers of growth and development. The challenges unleashed by Covid-19, however, require an even stronger policy response, including greater use of technology to improve service delivery and enhanced social assistance programs, to ensure that people receive quality education and health care,” said Anna Bjerde, World Bank Vice President for the Europe and Central Asia region.

Albania, Azerbaijan, and Russia are among the top 10 global improvers in progress made on health and education. However, there are significant variations within the region. Among the region’s emerging and developing economies, a child born in Poland can expect to achieve 75 percent of the productivity of a fully educated adult in optimal health. In contrast, a child born in Tajikistan, can expect to achieve only 50 percent productivity. In Albania, a child born today can expect to achieve 63 percent of the productivity of a fully educated adult in optimal health. While this is above the average for countries of a similar level of economic development worldwide, it is below the average of Europe and Central Asia.

Education Outcomes 

The region’s basic education outcomes offer a mixed picture, although the region performs well by global standards. Over the past decade, expected years of schooling have increased, with Azerbaijan, Albania, Montenegro, Poland, and Russia making the largest gains - mainly due to improvements in secondary school and pre-primary enrollments. However, expected years of schooling also declined in a number of countries, including Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine.

Education quality, on average, has not improved across the region in the past decade. Countries that have seen declines in education quality include Bulgaria and Ukraine. Countries that made improvements in education quality include Albania, Moldova, and Montenegro.

Over the past decade, Albania has made significant improvements in education quality. The harmonized test scores increased from 397 in 2010 to 434 in 2020. Albania has also increased expected years of schooling. A child who starts school today can expect to complete 12.9 years of school by age 18 compared to 11.6 years in 2010. 

“These improvements are related to intensive reform efforts over the last decade in Albania which include improved teacher recruitment and compensation policies; enhanced curriculum focused on competencies; increased access to all levels of education, and a stronger focus on inclusive education by targeting the most disadvantaged students,” said Maryam Salim, World Bank Country Manager for Albania.

“However, for learning outcomes to improve, enhanced spending on education, especially in programs and policies that contribute to improved quality and equity of education should be prioritized. Given the profound effects of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, policy responses to minimize the learning loss and ensuring continuity of learning for all students as equitably as possible are needed.”   

Health outcomes

Overall, health outcomes in the region are relatively good by global standards. Over the last 10 years, child mortality rates have dropped considerably, with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkey posting the largest improvements in child mortality. Similarly, child stunting rates have also dropped considerably, most notably in Albania, Azerbaijan, North Macedonia and Turkey. In Albania, the stunting rate dropped from 23 to 11 out of 100 children who are at risk of cognitive and physical limitations that can last a lifetime. 

Adult mortality rates have also declined significantly, with Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine posting the best improvements. However, adult mortality rates remain high in several countries.

Globally, the HCI report also calls for better measurement of data to enable policy makers in countries to target support to those who are most in need. The World Bank is helping governments develop long-term solutions that will build more resilient, inclusive economies in the post-pandemic era. 

The World Bank’s HCI looks at a child’s trajectory, from birth to age 18, on such critical metrics as child survival (birth to age 5); expected years of primary and secondary education adjusted for quality; child stunting; and adult survival rates. HCI 2020, based on data up to March of this year, provides a crucial pre-pandemic baseline that can help inform health and education policies and investments for the post-pandemic recovery.


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Indira Chand
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Ana Gjokutaj