Role of education and health in economic development

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“A healthy population is a pre-requisite for successful development” this was the conclusion that John Strauss and Duncan Thomas came to in their study “health, nutrition and economic development”, 1998.

Increased productivity is an indicator of economic growth and this can be achieved through greater investment in labor and capital. However, investment in capital can only be fully utilised if there is a healthy and educated workforce available in the economy. Thus, health and education both play a vital role in improving productivity and economic growth. Due to their dual role are both inputs and outputs they have a central role in economic development.

There is a desperate need to raise both health and education standards in Pakistan including its availability. Good health not only gives a longer life span but it help in raising return to investments in education, as a healthy educated persons work adds to the productivity of the economy. Education will also raise awareness about basic sanitation and hygiene and lower the chances of an individual getting ill.

It has been found that the probability of attending school among nutritionally stunted children in Nepal is only 5 per cent whereas this rises to 27 per cent for non-stunted students. Undernourished children were found to lag 20 per cent in test scores in Northern Brazil, one of the worst poverty hit areas of Latin America. Therefore to improve the effectiveness of schooling the health standards for children need to be improved in developing countries such as Pakistan.

In the 2000 world health report, the World Health Organisation (WHO) concluded that “the ultimate responsibility for the performance of a country’s health lies with government”. The government while settings its economic policies should view workforce as human capital and should invest in human capital as only investment in this can raise productivity.

The state of education in Pakistan is in shambles. Pakistan is the second country in the world with the highest number of children who do not go to school as was revealed in UNESCO’s education for all global monitoring report 2007. This is not only due to the poverty faced by the person which forces them to send their children to contribute to the household income instead of schooling them but also because approximately 37 per cent of children of less than five years of age suffer from stunted growth. Lack of education leads to continued or increased poverty and also contributes to the rising level of diseases such as AIDS/HIV and polio. This is because illiterate people can not understand the need for vaccination and the results of high-risk taking behavior. Diseases such as polio affect the economy as it not only reduces the labor force but also adds to the dependency burden. Apart from this conducting numerous numbers of National Immunisation Days is very costly and the funds used for this can be used for investing in the development of the health sector.

The government needs to consider this aspect of economic development while formulating economic policies as a more educated and healthy workforce is bound to improve and raise the levels of productivity in the economy. This in turn will also benefit the corporate sector of the economy and for this reason they should also help the government in improving the health and education standards of Pakistan.


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