Empirical analysis of human capital development and economic growth in Europe

Hiro Izushi, Robert Huggins

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputChapter


Recent discussion of the knowledge-based economy draws increasingly attention to the role that the
creation and management of knowledge plays in economic development. Development of human capital,
the principal mechanism for knowledge creation and management, becomes a central issue for
policy-makers and practitioners at the regional, as well as national, level. Facing competition both within
and across nations, regional policy-makers view human capital development as a key to strengthening
the positions of their economies in the global market. Against this background, the aim of this study is to
go some way towards answering the question of whether, and how, investment in education and vocational
training at regional level provides these territorial units with comparative advantages.
The study reviews literature in economics and economic geography on economic growth (Chapter 2). In
growth model literature, human capital has gained increased recognition as a key production factor along
with physical capital and labour. Although leaving technical progress as an exogenous factor, neoclassical
Solow-Swan models have improved their estimates through the inclusion of human capital. In
contrast, endogenous growth models place investment in research at centre stage in accounting for
technical progress. As a result, they often focus upon research workers, who embody high-order human
capital, as a key variable in their framework. An issue of discussion is how human capital facilitates economic growth: is it the level of its stock or its accumulation that influences the rate of growth? In addition, these economic models are criticised in economic geography literature for their failure to consider spatial aspects of economic development, and particularly for their lack of attention to tacit knowledge and urban environments that facilitate the exchange of such knowledge.
Our empirical analysis of European regions (Chapter 3) shows that investment by individuals in human capital formation has distinct patterns. Those regions with a higher level of investment in tertiary education tend to have a larger concentration of information and communication technology (ICT) sectors (including provision of ICT services and manufacture of ICT devices and equipment) and research functions.
Not surprisingly, regions with major metropolitan areas where higher education institutions are located show a high enrolment rate for tertiary education, suggesting a possible link to the demand from high-order corporate functions located there. Furthermore, the rate of human capital development (at the level of vocational type of upper secondary education) appears to have significant association with the level of entrepreneurship in emerging industries such as ICT-related services and ICT manufacturing, whereas such association is not found with traditional manufacturing industries.
In general, a high level of investment by individuals in tertiary education is found in those regions that accommodate high-tech industries and high-order corporate functions such as research and development (R&D). These functions are supported through the urban infrastructure and public science base, facilitating exchange of tacit knowledge. They also enjoy a low unemployment rate.
However, the existing stock of human and physical capital in those regions with a high level of urban infrastructure does not lead to a high rate of economic growth. Our empirical analysis demonstrates that the rate of economic growth is determined by the accumulation of human and physical capital, not by level of their existing stocks. We found no significant effects of scale that would favour those regions with a larger stock of human capital.
The primary policy implication of our study is that, in order to facilitate economic growth, education and training need to supply human capital at a faster pace than simply replenishing it as it disappears from the labour market. Given the significant impact of high-order human capital (such as business R&D staff in our case study) as well as the increasingly fast pace of technological change that makes human capital obsolete, a concerted effort needs to be made to facilitate its continuous development.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImpact of education and training: third report on vocational training research in Europe
Subtitle of host publicationbackground report
EditorsPascaline Descy, Manfred Tessaring
Place of PublicationLuxembourg
PublisherOffice for Official Publications of the European Communities
Number of pages48
ISBN (Print)978-9289602778, 9289602775
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Publication series

NameCedefop Reference series
PublisherOffice for Official Publications of the European Communities


Dive into the research topics of 'Empirical analysis of human capital development and economic growth in Europe'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this