A new index by the World Bank was unveiled on Thursday, 11 October 2018, at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) annual meeting held in Bali, Indonesia. Known as the Human Capital Index, it ranked Singapore as the best among 157 country at developing human capital, beating out fellow traditional Asian powerhouses, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong into second, third and fourth places respectively, to the top spot.

Through health, education and survivability measures, the Human Capital Index (HCI) can calculate the effectiveness of human capital development of each economy, which in turn allows it to assess the future economic growth of each country and the aggregate income levels of its citizens. Singapore government’s sustained focus on human development over the years has resulted in the country being among the world’s highest performers on learning and constantly jostling for top spot in various education, health care and economic indexes in recent years.

While World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim, acknowledged the rankings would be controversial, he did mention it was required to draw the attention of country leaders to what they think is a real crisis on the horizon, the need for more and better investment in people, which is connected to economic growth. Mr Kim hopes governments will be encouraged to move up the rankings by taking steps to invest more effectively in education and healthcare, much as they do with the World Bank’s popular “Doing Business” survey.

It is pretty astounding that as recent as 1950, Singapore adults on average had just two years of formal schooling, compared to today where 98 per cent of its students attained the international benchmark for secondary school basic proficiency, compared to only 26 per cent of students in South Africa meeting that standard, essentially meaning nearly all of Singapore’s secondary school students are prepared for post-secondary education and the working world. This is indeed testament to the effectiveness of sustained attention and investment to human development, which has resulted in Singapore now being among the world’s highest performers on learning.