Mukti

Demographic transition in Bangladesh

Posted in development, economic history, economics, labour by jrahman on March 19, 2014

Like a match box full of sticks —that’s how the Farmgate over bridge was once described to me.  It was the early 1990s, when six or so million people lived in Dhaka, while Bangladesh’s population was around 110 million.  I can’t think of any match box that, once full, can pack in a significant rise in the number of sticks, and yet, Bangladesh has somehow found room for extra people.  In the two decades since my visiting friend saw the teeming multitudes of Farmgate, the country’s population has risen to 150 million, and depending on how one counts, Dhaka is home to 15 or more million people.

The headcount, however, does not quite capture the fact that Bangladesh is going through a demographic transition. A transition that is perhaps as remarkable as, and probably related to the Bangladesh paradox.  As Chart 1 shows, over the past three decades, population growth has slowed significantly and the fertility rate (the number of children each woman bears on average) has declined markably.  Given the fertility rate is already close to the replacement rate of around 2%, it is quite possible that population growth may well slow even further from current 1% a year.

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