An Essay On The Dynamics Of Population And Development In Bangladesh

View with images and charts

An Essay On The Dynamics Of Population And Development In Bangladesh


Population may be defined as a group of people inhabiting a given location. Mother Earth today is burdened with a population of about 6.9 billion, according to United States Census Bureau. Every year close to four million are added to this already overpopulated planet. Despite the current overall growth rate of just over 1%, world’s population is projected to grow beyond nine billion by the year 2050, because of population momentum. However, this enormous population is not distributed evenly.

If we consider the top ten countries ranked by decreasing order of population size, five of those are located in Asia. China and India are the top two, but this is understandable considering their large size. So when population density is considered, they are not even in top ten. But there is a country which does have the misfortune of being included in the top ten of both lists. And that is our home country, Bangladesh.

With an area of only 1, 47, 570 square kilometers, hosted a population between 150 to 160 million, with 1142 people occupying per square kilometer of land area. Though the exact figures are controversial, there is no denying of the fact that a tiny country like Bangladesh faces a huge task in terms of managing the population. Since its independence in 1971 it is faced with an unenviable job of finding some way to link population positively with the development process. Population growth, when uncontrolled, is a major obstacle to development activities. But the same population may become an extremely valuable asset if it can be trained and geared to development goals. So every development effort should consider population parameters for sustained economic growth and welfare of the society, as they are both composite concepts by nature and do not operate in isolation. Demographic considerations like population size, structure, distribution, composition, behavior pattern, attitude and as a whole lifestyle must be a part of development planning, as it is the people who are consumers and producers.


Before undergoing discussions regarding relationship about population and development and the prospects and challenges we encounter in those aspects, we need to know the trend of population growth in Bangladesh. Though in terms of land we are small, our population size is quite extraordinary. The following graph provides a quick summary:

Stages of Demographic Transition:

If we look at the graph we see that population of our country was only slightly more than 43 million in 1950. Actually, between 1901 and 1951, population increased from 29 to 44 million, a 15 million rise. However, within 30 years population size more than doubled and became 90 million in 1991. Another 10 years, century mark was crossed and 111 million people were residing in Bangladesh. Today this country contains more than 150 million people. With a growth rate of a 1.40% and total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.7 our population is projected to be stabilized somewhere between 250-260 million by the year 2050. Bangladesh’s population has gone through the second stage of the demographic transition. Bangladesh is now in the third stage of the transition- CBR is decreasing and beginning to converge with CDR. But even with this trend we are not likely to achieve any drastic reduction of population from projected stabilization around 250 million because of population momentum. The following chart reveals a great deal about these dynamics:

Census year Population size (miln) Crude birth rate Crude death rate Natural growth rate Annual growth rate
1901 28.93 44.4 0.70
1911 31.56 53.8 45.6 8.2 0.94
1921 33.25 52.9 47.3 5.6 0.60
1931 35.60 50.4 41.7 8.7 0.74
1941 41.99 52.7 37.8 14.9 1.70
1951 44.16 49.4 40.7 8.7 0.50
1961 55.22 51.3 29.7 21.6 2.26
1974 76.40 47.4 19.4 28.0 2.48
1981 88.91 34.6 11.5 23.1 2.35
1991 109.88 31.6 11.2 20.4 2.17
2001 131.00 18.9 4.8 1.54
2005 138.00 20.8 5.8 1.42
2009 146.6 20.1 6.1 1.39
Source: Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics

So, up to 1961 can be termed as the pre-transition stage, as we find from the life table that during this period crude birth rate (CBR) and crude death rate(CDR) both were high, as a result growth rate was low. From 1961 CDR fell more rapidly than CBR, characterized by a high growth rate of over 2.00. Then from 2001 growth rate began to drop and currently it is believed to be 1.39. This drop in the growth rate suggests decreasing gap between crude birth and crude death rates. CBR and CDR are beginning to converge and hopefully we will soon achieve a degree of equality in birth and death rates which is a feature of post –transition stage and a precondition for stability in population size. Bangladesh has come a long way, and there is a longer way to go. Our mortality and fertility have shifted from higher end of the scale to a lower end, and some sort of balance between them will keep a control over population size.

The following graph depicts the path of convergence between CBR and CDR:

Future Growth

Considering these trends, our population will continue to grow for quite some time before level of stability is reached. Before that happens, we have to tread carefully through this uncertain path. Our policies and strategies require some fine tuning because we strove to reach the current position, any type of laxity and we will lose our grip on the situation. We are dealing here with more than we can afford. We cannot stop population from going overnight, but at least we can take steps to keep it within a limit. It will still be huge for us, as we see a tenfold increase in our population size in two centuries starting from 1901:

It can be seen in Figure ? that Bangladesh is only halfway along the S-curve of the ‘demographic transition’ from a historically-stable population size of around 25 million to a final size of 10-fold larger. The UN projection would require an average annual growth rate of 1.29% from today to 2050. This is unlikely as even if the TFR remains at a plateau at replacement level through 2050, the population-ageing process will bring the CBR down below 20 within a decade or so. Simultaneously, the population-ageing process will start to push the CDR above 8/1000 from around 2020, which will further reduce the population growth rate. This is a uncertain path, as many things can happen and the whole projections, graphs, charts all can go horribly wrong. There are so many variables that remain unexplored, like migration data which is usually not collected as part of census process, leaving the impact of a significant proportion of the people on population change out of the equation. Migration is an important demographic process influencing population size, but our information regarding migration is based on sample sizes rather than the whole Bangladesh. But we have to act based on assumptions because we lack information and there is still no foolproof model of envisaging population dynamics.


According to demographic balancing equation, population change depends on the rate of natural increase and net migration. Natural increase is the surplus or deficit of births, or in other words fertility, over deaths, or mortality. Other things factored in as well. Like industrialization, urbanization, economic growth, education, labor force participation, marriage patterns, age-sex structure, contraceptive prevalence, religion, social and health services, politics, political ideologies, socio-political reforms, rising standard of living, development of medical science and so on. All these factors interact to influence the dynamism of population. However, fertility expressed in terms of total fertility rate (TFR), contraceptive use expressed as contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR), various types of mortality statistics and movement of people into and out of the country as well as within the country are usually the more important ones.


Also, our TFR(total fertility rate), that is defined as the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime if (1) she were to experience the exact current age-specific fertility rates (ASFRs) through her lifetime, and (2) she were to survive from birth through the end of her reproductive life, which is obtained by summing the single-year age-specific rates at a given time, is falling and according to 2007 BDHS statistics it is 2.7. It is believed that replacement level fertility which is fertility just enough to replace an area’s population taking into account current mortality patterns will soon be achieved. Another thing comes hand in hand with TFR is contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) reflecting proportion of married couples using contraception which is estimated to be 55.8%, again by 2007 standards. The following graph shows a relationship between these two:

In 1970, the year before Bangladesh and Pakistan became two separate countries, East Pakistan (Bangladesh) had a population of approximately 69 million, and West Pakistan (Pakistan) of approximately 62 million. Both parts of the country shared a common family planning scheme and had identical fertility rates (6.85 children per woman). Following independence government administered family planning programs were started and TFR begun to show positive changes. Between the early 1970’s and late 1980’s Bangladesh experienced an enormous decline in fertility (6.3 to 4.3, BDHS 2007).

After this time period the TFR leveled off for almost a decade (1993 to 2000), remaining at approximately3.3 children per woman. Since 2000 the TFR has been declining again and the current TFR is 2.7. In case of Contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) it was very low during the introductory period in the 1960s. The rate increased six-fold by 1975, from 8 to 49 percent.

The use of modern methods has grown faster. Between 1993-94 and 1996-97, CPR increased from 45 to 49 percent. Use of modern methods rose from 36 to 42 percent. There has been a steady growth in the CPR, with an average increase of almost two percentage points a year.

Use of pills quadrupled in eleven years, from 5 percent in 1985 to 21 percent in 1996-97. The pill accounts for 42 percent of contraceptive use. Use of female and male sterilization declined. Use of IUD declined slightly. CPR in 2007 was 55.8%, which was lower than 2004 when it was 58%. Nevertheless, improvement in TFR continues.

Regional variations in TFR and CPR

However, this is not the whole picture, as there is wide variation of CPR region wise. Khulna has already achieved replacement level fertility; Rajshahi is closing in, while Sylhet and Chittagong are lagging far behind. Dhaka and Barisal are somewhere in the middle zone, keeping close proximity to national CPR.

Khulna 2.0 63
Rajshahi 2.4 66
Barisal 2.8 56
Dhaka 2.7 56
Chittagong 3.2 44
Sylhet 3.7 32

Exact cause of these differences is a matter of debate. But acceptance of contraceptive practice and concerns regarding social security are major factors, which keeps birth rates down. Availability of services and social conventions regarding marriage and contraception are also important. Another variable directly opposite to a declining TFR is an overall early age at marriage and childbearing in contravention to legally stipulated age of marriage. In Bangladesh the legal age for women to marry is 18 years but a large number of women get married before that age. The median age at first marriage for women aged 20-49 is 16 years (BDHS 2007) and the trend for teenage marriage has not abated yet. In countries with declining fertility one usually notices an increase in the age at first marriage. Surprisingly, Bangladesh does not fit this pattern. Compared to the other four Divisions, for instance, the Khulna and Rajshahi Divisions have the lowest TFRs with 2.0 and 2.4. However, if we compare the age at marriage of each of these Divisions it is apparent that women in Khulna and Rajshahi have the lowest age at marriage – around 16 years. This regional difference shows that the age at marriage does not necessarily have an impact on the decline of fertility rates. In these regions the high spread of contraceptive use and, in particular, birth spacing methods are responsible for the reduction. It is worth noting that the exact year in which replacement fertility is achieved is not of great importance. What is potentially of much greater importance is whether or not fertility can be brought below replacement fertility. For example, if fertility stops declining on attaining replacement level, the final population will continue to increase for another century and add at least 100 million. However, if fertility declined through replacement (i.e. TFR around 2.2) to the current level of Thailand (TFR around 1.8), the final population could stop growing at 205-210 million, some 50-55 million lower than otherwise will be the case. But first we need to achieve replacement level, which requires fulfilling the unmet need for family planning that is 17.6% and CPR of 72%. Then Net Reproduction Rate (NRR) will be 1, TFR will be 2.2.


In terms of mortality reduction, Bangladesh has made significant strides. Infant mortality rate (IMR) and maternal mortality ratios (MMR) are 52/1000 and 194/100,000 live births respectively. Especially MMR shows dramatic improvement from 322/100,000 just ten years back in 2001. Neonatal mortality rate (NMR) is 37/1000 live births. But under five mortality proves to be a stumbling block and shows no sign of reduction from 65/1000 live births which are high. All these especially IMR are indicators of health status and living standards of people in general. If everything goes as planned we will achieve millennium development goal of reducing MMR to 194/100,000 live births within 2015. The following box shows changes in mortality:

1974 153 _ _ _ 46.2
1981 112 _ _ _ 56.0
1991 92 470 _ 133 56.1
2001 66 322 _ _ 65.0
2005 52 _ _ _ 61.1
2010 52 194 37 65 66.8

Under five and neonatal mortality are causes of concern of course. Neonatal mortality rate (NMR) particularly is not promising. It remains almost static for several years. Neonatal period extends from birth to twenty eight days. Neonates are particularly vulnerable to many health problems. There are various programs aimed at that particular age group, but those are failing to produce desired results. Our current NMR is 37/1000 live births, which is only slightly less than 41/1000 in 2004. As our population grows there is a risk that neonatal mortality may undermine our effort to take control of the population wrecking havoc on health structure. The graph labeled as NMR reflects an almost straight line with little fluctuations:

Although declining, under five mortality is still relatively high compared to other developing countries. Currently it stands at 65/1000 live births and infant mortality is 57/1000 live births. The graph shows a comparison between these two:

International Migration

Apart from these, migration plays a key role in population dynamics. According to data from the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET), the executing agency of the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment, Government of Bangladesh, from 1976 to 2006, 4.4 million Bangladeshis had gone abroad as short-term labor migrants, with over 90percent based in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Since 1976, there has been a steady increase in the outflow of workers, except in the years 1994, 2000 and 2001. Since 2002 the number of Bangladeshi short-term labor migrants has again been rising again. Between 200,000 and 250,000Bangladeshis leave the country each year for overseas employment opportunities. And these are official statistics representing only the tip of the iceberg.

Urbanization & rural urban migration

Urbanization is another factor. Though good for modernization, uncontrolled urbanization especially in most parts of Dhaka is a problem. Add to this the rapid growth in the urban population ratio is also noteworthy. Urban areas are estimated to grow by around 3.5 percent yearly in the six metropolitan areas. At present, Bangladesh’s urban population numbers 34 million, of which close to 20 million lives in Dhaka. It is possible that urban population will increase to over 100 million this century (Streatfield, 2008).As a result of this rapid urban growth, Bangladesh’s urban areas have the fastest growing number of people living in slums. For example, the annual growth rate of slums in Dhaka is approximately 7 percent.

Due to resource constraints in rural areas, the lack of work and the decrease in land cultivation, natural disaster, environmental factors and other push factors many people come to seek better lives in urban areas, almost exclusively in Dhaka. This rural to urban migration means urban resources are stretched to the limits and as new resources are hard to find, scarcity develops. But the unidirectional flow continues unabated.

Overcrowding in urban areas particularly in city slums – and the absence of adequate sanitation and sewerage systems cause water borne and airborne diseases to become prevalent (Bangladesh Urban Health Survey, 2006). The lack of job opportunities because of too few jobs for too many people and the high risk of disease drive slum dwellers even further into poverty. The problem of floating people is also important as their numbers soar day by day. The following figure reveals the staggering rise of urban population:

Socio Economic & Other Factors

Socio economic conditions have indirect influence on population change through fertility. There is a debate on the influence of socio-economic factors on the fertility rate’s decline. Scholars like Caldwell et al. (1999) consider socio-economic factors as drivers for changes in fertility. They mainly attribute the decline of the TFR to socio-economic changes such as the increasing costs of sustaining a large family. Caldwell et al. (1999) show that there have been considerable social and economic changes in the country and argue that these transformations have influenced couples’ attitudes to family size, leading to a decline in fertility. According to Caldwell (1999), Rahman (2002) and others, these socio-economic changes include:

· Education: Increasing access to primary and secondary education particularly for girls;

· Gender: An overall improvement in the status and role of women;

· Economic situation: Better economic conditions, following a rise in income-generating activities and employment opportunities, particularly for women (for example in garment factories);

· Nutrition and housing: The increasing cost of sustaining a large family, such as providing food, housing, clothing, school fees;

· Public awareness: improved access to the mass m

Age Sex Structure

And last but not the least, age sex structure of Bangladesh has got a great implication for future. As of now, we have a triangular population pyramid with a wide base and narrow apex that is going to change.

Bangladesh has been experiencing a shift in the age structure of its population. The percentage of elderly people – those aged 60 years and over – will grow substantially within this century. Currently there are about 7 million elderly people in Bangladesh and this number will increase to up to 65 million by2100 (26 percent of the whole population in Bangladesh). The growth rate of the elderly population is 2.2 percent per annum, whereas the working-age population growth rate is only 0.5 percent per annum (Streatfield 2008). The elderly population will therefore be increasingly prominent in Bangladesh’s overall age structure. The rapid growth of this older age group is linked to steep declines in total fertility rates in the 1970’s and 1990’s, as well as to improved medical practice resulting in increased life expectancy (Shrestha 2000). Life expectancy at birth is currently 64 years for women and 62 years for men (PRP 2009).The ratio of elderly people to working-age people (the old-age dependency ratio) is increasing substantially in Bangladesh. The number of people aged 60 and over will increase six-fold by 2050, while the number of people of working age will not even double (Streatfield 2008). The shift in this ratio has significant economic, social and health consequences. For example, the demand for social pensions, care homes and health care is certain to increase.

At this point the ‘demographic dividend’needs to be considered. Due to the declines in fertility, the proportion of the working-age population in Bangladesh has increased in recent years. At present, the percentage of people of working age is remarkably higher than the percentage of economically dependent young people under the age of 15 and the elderly population over 60. The resulting ‘demographic bonus’ and ‘demographic window’ could be used for economic growth in Bangladesh but only while this age structure continues. This window of opportunity will soon close with renewed changes in the age structure. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that to benefit from the current ‘demographic dividend’ in Bangladesh, the working-age population needs to be provided with increased job opportunities. Currently, almost 40 percent of the population is unemployed, with women mostly affected (Karsch & Muenz2007).


Bangladesh is a developing country included in the ‘low income’ category with a per capita income of US$641. Though faced with a plethora of problems, it is gradually climbing the development ladder and it is hoped that by 2021 we may become a middle income country. The following human development indicators characterize our advance through the years:

Health Life expectancy at birth: 66.9 years
Education Mean years of schooling (of Adults): 4.8 years
Income GNI per capita (US$): 641
Inequality Inequality-adjusted HDI value .331
Poverty Multidimensional poverty index ( k greater than or equal to 3) .291
Gender Gender inequality index, value .734
Sustainability Adjusted net savings ( % of GNI ) 23.7
Human Security Refugees (thousands) 10.1
Composite Indices HDI value 0.469
Human development Index (HDI) Rank 129

HDI status

The HDI represents a push for a broader definition of well-being and provides a composite measure of three basic dimensions of human development: health, education and income. Between 1980 and 2010 Bangladesh’s HDI rose by 2.0% annually from 0.259 to 0.469 today, which gives the country a rank of 129 out of 169 countries with comparable data. The HDI of South Asia as a region increased from 0.315 in 1980 to 0.516 today, placing Bangladesh below the regional average. So we have still a long way to go.

Over the last 10 years Bangladesh has made impressive gains in key human development indicators. In the 2004 UNDP Human Development Report, Bangladesh ranked 138 among 177 countries with an HDI score of 0.509, which places it among countries considered to have achieved medium human development. This is the result of macroeconomic stability, low population growth, increase in women’s empowerment, reduction in aid dependence, food self-sufficiency, effective disaster management capacity, promoting non-governmental organizations (NGOs), free and fair parliamentary elections, a vibrant, pluralist, democratic civil society marked by cultural activism and developmental debates, and an active and free press.

Through the adoption and implementation of sound policies and strategies, Bangladesh has managed to sustain a large measure of economic stability and macroeconomic growth. Throughout the 1990s, the economy grew by an average of 4.75 percent per year. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita has grown steadily from US$ 273 in 1990-91 to US$ 441 (or $1400 in PPP). As a result, the Human Poverty Index for Bangladesh fell from 61 in 1983 to 42.2, an achievement that was all the more remarkable given that the pace of income poverty reduction was only one percent point per year. Nonetheless 63 million people continue to live below the poverty line. There has, however, been a steep decline in the number of hardcore poor from 36.75 percent in 1983-83 to just under twenty percent or approximately 30 million people. Despite these significant achievements, much will need to be done to ensure the right to survival and to achieve the MDG target of halving the proportion of the poor, and the hungry and malnourished.

Gender development .

The UNDP Gender Development Index (GDI) for 2004 ranked Bangladesh 110 among 144 countries, an increase of 13 positions since 1999. This improvement reflects a closing of the gap between men and women in key indicators such as life expectancy. However, a GEM ranking of 76 shows continued low levels of female representation in government, in decision-making positions and in ownership of economic assets. A significant gender disparity persists in both income and human poverty, especially at the lower end of income distribution. The female disadvantage in child mortality has remained persistent, while the female-male gap in acute malnutrition has increased over the past decade. On average the incidence of severe malnutrition among girls under five is 2-4 percent higher than among boys. Similarly, compared to male-headed households, female-headed households are more likely to be living in extreme poverty. Overall, Bangladesh’s performance with regard to achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment (MDG 4) remains mixed. There has been a narrowing of the gender gap in most social MDG indicators in general and in the education sector in particular, where, as a result of targeted government policies, female enrolment rates in primary and secondary schools exceeds those for males. However, in other areas such as economic and political participation and adult literacy, much still remains to be done to ensure the rights to survival, livelihood and participation.

Disaster Management .

Significant investments in disaster preparedness, including the development of early warning systems and the creation of a wide network of flood and cyclone shelters, has seen a significant decrease in the number of lives lost each year. However, natural disasters are still responsible for significant property losses with major consequences for the poor. There is therefore scope for continued improvement in terms of disaster mitigation and recovery that is targeted to the most vulnerable populations.

Education sector

Bangladesh’s success in increasing primary school enrolment has been one of the most notable achievements of the last fifteen years and has played an important role in raising the country’s HDR scores. The gross enrolment and net enrolment rate in primary education in 2008 was 98.9% and 90.8% respectively, though enrolment rates in urban slums and the CHT remain significantly lower. Bangladesh has more or less achieved gender parity in education at the primary school level. Despite these positive developments, a good number of children still are not enrolled in school. Drop out rates are yet to be reduced to zero, though there is a significant improvement over the 38 percent dropout rate recorded in 1995. Under the most optimistic scenario of population stabilization by 2035, Bangladesh will need some US$1.7 billion to maintain current momentum and to achieve the MDG 2 by 2015. Thus, without significantly increased investments in the education sector, it is clear that ensuring the right to a secure livelihood will remain a challenge.

Overall, our development status signifies the challenges we face, we have to navigate through these and achieve our goal to become a middle income country soon. .


Population can either become a boon or a bane, depending upon our policies, strategies and attitude to the problem. We have a large population which, if properly managed, may well be an asset and act as a springboard for development in future. As described previously, we have a large base of young population. They will be the population dividend if trained up properly. Also we have a good number of migrants in foreign lands providing huge sums of foreign remittance. And as many developed countries undergoing population decline, a vast job market will open up. With a timely and appropriate migration policy, these young people can be encouraged to join migrant workforce to fill up that deficit. But they need education and skill development, in which government can play a significant role. Furthermore, our female populace is also valuable as they can also find jobs abroad, if properly trained. With the right steps in right direction, these migrants may become one of the driving forces of our economy.

Our economy is also placed in a relatively secure footing. Recent global recession did not hit us as hard as some other countries. Bangladesh can develop itself as a regional economic hub. We have manpower; we need investments, we need entrepreneurship, which we can achieve by providing incentives. In this way we can generate income earning opportunities for our population and reach our goal to become a middle income country by 2011.

There is no scope to play down our achievements, like reduction in growth rate, fertility levels, mortality levels, proportion of young population, rise in expectation of life at birth, literacy rate, contraception prevalence rate, age at marriage and level of urbanization. We got UN award forMDG4 (reducing child mortality). We are on track to reduce maternal mortality to acceptable standards. Poverty is declining, albeit slower than expected. Foreign investment prospects are good. Amount of foreign remittance from the emigrant people is rising every year contributing to our currency reserve. We have many government and non government organizations working tirelessly for betterment of general people’s life. Our population is hard working and can face challenges. All these bode well for our future


Although Bangladesh is the seventh most populous country in the world, with the highest population density and a relatively low per capita income, the country’s demographic and economic indicators have recorded considerable improvements. These changes are a result of some promising policies, strategies and interventions taken by the governments, either independently or in collaboration with international agencies. Nevertheless challenges are monumental.

Challenges in family planning program

Our national TFR is close to replacement level. But removal of regional disparity in TFR and CPR as described previously will be a challenge. Many variables are still unfavorable, like:

§ Contraceptive dropout rate is still over 50%,

§ Unmet need close to 18%,

§ Age at marriage is still low and adolescent fertility is high.

§ Institutional delivery is only 23%, delivery attended by trained birth attendants is 27% (BMMS 2010).

Combined with these factors is population momentum. So, our population will increase considerably before stabilizing at an excess of 230 million, as depicted in population projection above. This is beyond the carrying capacity of our land. To withstand this pressure we need implementation of practical and timely policies to control population, exploration of untapped resources and devising ways to use this population as skilled manpower.

Shifting Age Structure

As part of population growth, the issue of age structure comes into focus. We now have a relatively large proportion of youth and growing elderly populace. Managing the youth and prepare them as demographic dividend will not be easy. Along with it, the long underestimated elderly problem will soon hit us hard. Till now we have overlooked elderly people, leaving it to our joint family system to look after them. But their number is silently rising, and social support for them is dwindling. Under 15 age group is also a matter of concern, because they constitute a significant section of our society, our resources in comparison to their needs are limited. If we fail to manage them, they will move in wrong direction and create social problems.

Both this 60+ and <15 years group make our dependent population. If we look at the figures from the past and look ahead to future projections, we see that numbers are rising:

2001 11.2
2006 10.0
2011 10.2
2016 10.6
2021 12.2
2026 15.0

Moreover, 60+ people will increase to significant proportion by 2051. They will require constant attention and care for their multiplicity of problems, especially age related complications. Even if our health infrastructure is improved and facilities increase, it may not be sufficient for catering to the demands of a large proportion of elderly people. This will create pressure on the health sector.

2001 7.97 6.0
2011 9.77 6.5
2021 14.10 8.2
2031 22.15 11.6
2041 31.89 15.4
2051 44.10 20.2

As the joint family support structure is disintegrating, government sponsored support facilities will be required on a larger scale. This will eat up a good amount of our national revenue.

Continuing development activities will also be difficult. Funds may need to be redirected from development programs to more pressing population issues. This problem may be addressed by tagging population and development together.

Protecting the environment

Ensuring environmental sustainability as a MDG is already a challenge. Dhaka is one of the most polluted cities. Tree covers are disappearing, wildlife facing extinction. Protecting the environment is becoming more and more difficult.

Uncontrolled urbanization

An unbridled influx of people from rural areas and the resultant unplanned urbanization especially in Dhaka poses a double challenge: reducing the sustainable economic growth potential for rural areas on the one hand, and creating hazards in urban areas and making cities more difficult to live in on the other. Slums account for more than 35 per cent of the population in all major Bangladeshi cities. A recent study and mapping of slums indicates that they are growing at over 7% per annum, implying a doubling time of less thana decade. This frightening scenario requires an immediate strengthening of urban planning and economic actions to slow the pace of movement away from rural areas.

Scarcity of basic human needs

With increasing population, basic human needs will become increasingly difficult to provide. Our political culture needs to be more stable and mature to deal with these issues.

Challenges in Health Sector

In the health sector, MMR is decreasing and in the right track. But under 5 mortality and neonatal mortality is still high. Only 15 per cent of child births take place at health facilities, and just 18 percent of births are delivered by the trained personnel. This situation requires improvement. Another matter of concern is the threat of HIV/AIDS. Prevalence is still low, <.1%, but we are vulnerable to an epidemic because of having almost an open border with countries suffering from a HIV/AIDS epidemic, and we lack facilities everywhere to check transfused blood for HIV. To protect ourselves from the looming danger of HIV/AIDS will be a major challenge in the coming decades.

Poverty Situation

The grinding poverty shows very few signs of letting up. The Gross National Income (GNI) per capita measured in 2008 prices is a staggering low of US$520 while GNI Purchasing Power Parity per capita is US$1440 (2008). This is a dismal figure when compared to other economies. Even though the poverty rate in Bangladesh has been decreasing, it is doing so at a slow rate of less than 2% per year. 49% of the population still remains below the poverty line. Poverty matters because it affects many factors of growth – education, population growth rates, health of the workforce and public policy. Poverty is most concentrated in the rural areas of Bangladesh, hence creating disparities between the rural and urban areas. However, urban poverty remains a problem too.

The Income Gini Co-efficient, a measure to assess income inequality, shows an increase from 0.451 in 2000 to 0.467 in 2005, mostly because of increasing rural inequality. A higher Gini Co-efficient reflects a worsening situation for poverty. Rural Gini Co-efficient increased from 0.393 in 2000 to 0.428 in 2005. Although the urban inequality did not get worse, neither did it improve. The urban Gini Co-efficient remained static at 0.497 in the five years. n fact, inequality in Bangladesh also deepened for the decade since 1990. The earlier HES showed the coefficient was 0.259 in 1991-92 and it reached 0.306 in 2000. This measure was done by assessment in 14 zones of the country. However, the new HES figure was derived by widening the assessment area to 16 zones. The other continued alarming trend reflected in the survey is that income share of the lower tier people has decreased while the top 50 percent’s increased, widening the gap between the richest and the poorest. It is now clear that 50 percent of the population claims only 20.32 percent of total income. Interestingly, the top 5 percent or the richest of the tiers also lost their share of income and recorded at 26.93 percent as against the previous survey that showed them to have sharply gained their share of income. It will be tough to reduce these inequalities.


· Integration of health and family planning programs.

· Population issues have taken a backseat for some time. These need to be brought back to the forefront. A vigorous public awareness campaign should be launched regarding this.

· A coordinated and collaborative approach between public and private sector is essential.

· Transparent, corruption free and a strong network is necessary for fruitful implementation of policies.

· Population, poverty and development are related, so issues regarding these must be dealt together.

· Available resources should be utilized accordingly and new resources should be explored.

· Environment friendly technology should be supported and harmful technologies restricted.

· A framework for an even distribution of income should be drawn up.

· National population policy needs revision and strengthening.

· A well defined migration policy is the need of the day.

· Strong financial commitment is required from government in health and population sector.

· Adolescents and elderly people must be given their share of importance. Policies should be made considering their needs and demands.

Our nation is used to fight against heavy odds, like in 1952, 1971 and every year when we are battling flood, drought, cyclones etc. So, even though the variables stacked against us, we certainly should not lose hope.


Since people are the centre place of development, planning should be conceived at the local level, for and by the people. Specific emphasis should be placed on growth and investment by both private and public sector as a vehicle for economic growth and alleviation of poverty. There appears to exist a relative lack of commitment to population management through converting the raw population into human capital. The prospects and challenges are tremendous. We are beset with problems, but there are rays of hope in the horizon. To help fulfilling our potential, a strong coordination and monitoring body should be created and given greater authority and autonomy. The National Population Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, can be extended to the grassroots level, and include representatives from elected bodies, the local administration, social and political leadership, civil society and other stakeholders.


1. Ahsan, Fakrul: Demographic Explosion in Bangladesh: Policy Prescriptions and Future Outlook.

2. Bairagi, Radheshyam: Dutta, Ashish Kumar: Demographic Transition in Bangladesh: What Happened in the Twentieth Century and What Will Happen Next, page 4.

3. BANGLAPEDIA: Contraception

4. Bangladesh Common Country Assessment 2005.

5. Fleischer, Annett: Lutz, Melanie: Schmidt, Jean-Olivier and et al: Population Dynamics in Bangladesh. A case study on the causes and effects of demographic change in Bangladesh, page 9-20.





10. Inam, Ahmed; Byron, Rejaul Karim: ‘Inequality deepens’, The Daily Star Web Edition, Tuesday, October 10, 2006.

11. Sikder, Mohammad Jalal: International Migration Statistics and Data Sources, Bangladesh, page2.

12. Streatfield, Peter Kim; Karar, Junaid Ahsan: Population Challenges for Bangladesh in the Coming Decades.

10, 2006