Printer-friendly version

Training as a development strategy: human capital and growth

An hour with Patrizio Bianchi, Minister of Education
Digital format, 03/05/2021, Digital Panel Debate

The relationship between human capital and development has been a topic of study since economic policy has existed. Nevertheless, training and skills enhancement have long been underestimated by theories that have foregrounded other productive factors as decisive to economic growth.

The theme has once again become central, even though confronted from various viewpoints. On the one hand, the Chicago School and theories of endogenous growth cite training as a factor in increasing productivity and competitiveness, thereby leading to economic growth. On the other, studies on the economics of prosperity advanced at Harvard by Amartya Sen, point to training as fundamental also to expanding the pool of people capable of participating in a country’s collective life and, therefore, in its development.

These apparently contrasting interpretations find a point of encounter in moments of transition marked by major transformations. This is precisely the juncture at which Italy finds itself today as it comes to grips with the new industrial revolution triggered by digital technology. The challenge to the educational system is to find a way to reconcile the rapid timeframes of technological transformations with the denser ones of academic cycles. Seeking at the same time to reach a growing number of recipients so as to prevent new divisions that would further restrict prospects for economic growth.

These challenges and trends are underway all across the globe, but they assume particular importance for a country already struggling, and for some time, against economic stagnation and associated low investment levels. Moreover, one of the many consequences of the considerable disparity across Italy is a serious school dropout rate.

The entire educational system needs a thorough overhaul aimed not only at building technical skills but also at bolstering the country’s cultural framework. It is urgent that the recovery reach all of Italy and not only certain virtuous niches, which would only further undermine social cohesion. Hopes reside in the success of a National Recovery and Resilience Plan in which the word resilience refers to the capacity to resist adversity through transformation.

In brief, if Italy intends to reform and enhance its educational system, it is going to need a development strategy that no longer depends solely on the GDP growth factor, but that instead goes hand in hand with social cohesion and the generation of collective prosperity.  Human capital is key to making this happen: not merely skill at the service of economic progress, but also the ability to feel part of a national community engaged in a complex – yet surely achievable – recovery process.