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Regular version of the site

HSE to Focus on Applied Research of Human Capital

Lilia Ovcharova, HSE Vice Rector for Applied Research
© Mikhail Dmitriev/ Higher School of Economics

In order to research human capital, Lilia Ovcharova, a renowned scholar and expert on social policy, has been appointed Vice Rector responsible for applied human capital research at HSE. Human capital development studies are key priority for our university.

Why is Human Capital Important?

Research into human capital is interdisciplinary by nature, as it can cover a wide range of topics, such as education, health care, employment, social aid and culture, as well as housing and utilities as spheres of social policy.

These fields are quite important, since the 21st century is the era of a new type of capital – human capital.

Once, a key role in the global economy was played by countries with abundant natural resources. Later, they were supplanted by countries, which had well-developed financial market infrastructure. Today’s leaders are countries in possession of many professionals capable of ‘selling’ their knowledge and skills, i.e., human capital. Markets, where the contribution of knowledge and skills in a product’s price is high, tend to develop faster than those primarily focused on raw materials and the arms trade, Lilia Ovcharova explained.

What about Russia?

Russia’s human capital is very high. For instance, Russia is one of the world’s Top-3 countries in terms of its education enrolment ratio. However, in regards to its education capitalization, the country seriously falling behind, and studies authored by HSE have shown that this has been driven by problems related to job market demand, as well as supply. According to Professor Ovcharova, only professionals with cutting-edge cognitive competencies and socio-behavioural skills can find work on the most promising job markets (e.g., design, IT, the experience economy, creative industries, contemporary education, and high-tech health care).

The Russian authorities are well aware of this. Therefore, nine of Russia’s national development goals by 2024, established in May by order of the Russian President, directly relate to the development of human capital and enhancing its overall contribution to economic growth.

What about HSE?

HSE possesses vast experience in social policy research. Human capital is a key topic for such departments as the Centre of Development Institute,Institute for Social Policy,Institute of Demography,Centre for Labour Market Studies,Centre for Health Policy, and many others. HSE is a national leader in research in this field. However, bearing in mind the growing demand for research outcomes and rising competition, HSE has set certain new goals for itself.

Firstly, with the aim of fostering effectiveness and efficiency in research and expert analysis, various types of researchers (even those who don’t know about each other’s existence yet) should unite to achieve synergy. There already are some examples of such collaboration: for example, the topic of inequality is jointly studied by the Institute of Education, Institute for Social Policy, Centre for Health Policy and the Centre for Labour Market Studies.

Secondly, research into human capital should involve scholars and departments, which previously were not as engaged in this field.

‘Organizing this type of research is an administrative challenge,’ Professor Ovcharova notes, adding: ’I’m going to sort out how to ensure progress in this research and identify which colleagues should be brought in to help.’

This is true not only for Moscow, but also for HSE’s campuses in St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Perm; not only for its research departments, but also for its faculties; not only for its teachers and researchers, but also for its students and graduates.

For example, HSE offers a Master’s programme in Statistical Modelling and Actuarial Science, which produces graduates capable of performing actuarial computations. One field of applied research where they could be quite useful would be pension system development. However, as of today, the HSE Institute for Social Policy still brings in external experts to perform such computations.

The same is true in regards to other programmes that deal with employment or the Russian population’s financial habits (this latter issue is particularly interesting in the context of Russia’s ageing population, since it is more and more important for older people who are at risk of falling victim to fraud).

Who Can Benefit from this Research?

In addition to organizing applied human capital research, the new vice rector will promote it on the external market. ‘We are ready to offer our knowledge of human capital in Russia to those in charge of administrative decisions,’ Professor Ovcharova said.

Interest in these studies is high, not only among Russian federal and regional authorities, who are responsible for implementing the aforementioned presidential order, but also in corporations. This relates not only to activities involving staff training, enrolment and working conditions, but also with corporations engaged in major social projects related to health care and healthy living, social support, and charity.

For example, HSE will be involved in Sberbank’s project to modernize its system of long-term care for older and disabled people with limited autonomy. This project is essential, since the share of pension-age people in Russia is 25% and is continuing to grow. Meanwhile, the social services system has become outdated, and its contents and quality do not comply with today’s demands, Professor Ovcharova emphasized.

Professor Ovcharova also plans to organize the work of her peers in such a way that, if there are inquiries from governmental bodies or corporations, HSE would be able to respond to them quickly, by forming teams of analysts capable of covering specific topics of applied research.

Completing such research quickly is particularly important for the commissioners of research and development in human capital (today, it mostly relates to education, health care, social aid, actuarial science, employment, and studies of the population’s financial behavior), Professor Ovcharova believes. Moreover, speed is essential for being able to compete with other research teams.

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