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Population


Population the present (2011) population size of Bangladesh is estimated at over 158 millions. The rate of population growth has been estimated in 2011 according to which the population growth rate has been 1.566%. The population of the country was 111.5 million in 1991 and it stood at 130.5 million in 2001.

World Bank estimated the population size of Bangladesh in 2008 as 160 million and in 2010 the World Population Reference stated the figure as 164 million. However according to The Population and Housing Census Preliminary results 2011 of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics the figure is over 142 million.

Table 1 Population of Bangladesh, 1801-2001(in million).

Census year Population Growth rates (exponential)
1801 14.5 -
1851 20.3 -
1901 28.9 -
1911 31.6 0.94
1921 33.3 0.60
1931 25.6 0.74
1941 42.0 1.70
1951 44.2 0.50
1961 55.2 2.26
1974 76.4 2.48
1981 89.9 2.35
1991 111.5 2.17
2001 130.5 1.59

Source Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2008.

The population density of the Bangladesh in 1991 and 2001 was 755 and 881 per square kilometre respectively. It is estimated that the population of the country will nearly be doubled by 2050. The number of households in 2001 was 25.31 million, of which 19.45 million were in rural areas and 5.86 million in urban areas. The average size of a household was 4.9. The literacy rate in 2001 for population of 5 years and over was 42.5% for both sexes, 46.4 percent for males and 38.3 for females. The adult literacy rate (15 years and over) was 47.5 percent in 2001. The economic activity rates in 1991 and 2001 were 43.1 and 37.6 respectively. The 2001 Census figures are based on 5% sample. Four principal sources of household in 2001 were agriculture/forestry/livestock (29.2 percent), agricultural labour (20.6 percent), business (14.7 percent) and salary/wage (10.9 percent).

The population of Bangladesh remained almost stationary until the end of the eighteenth century despite the very high birth rate because of the equally high mortality rate. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, the population started to grow at a very slow pace. Since 1921, the population had experienced a rapid decline in mortality and thus increase in growth rate, which began to decline in the mid-1970s, although continued to remain at a high level. The increase in population at a rate that will double the total size in the next fifty years even after replacement level fertility is achieved during the next ten years is an echo effect of the high level of fertility observed until now and the overwhelming young age population.

The majority population (98%) of Bangladesh comprises of homogeneous Bangali people and the rest 2% includes the ethnic tribal population and non-Bengali muslims.

Tribal population The tribal population in 2001 was 1.4 million, which was about 1.13% of the total population. The figure was 1.2 million in 1991, of which chakma population was 252,258, marma 157,301, tripura 79,772, manipuri 24,882, santal 202,162, garo 64,280, Murong 22,178, tanchangya 21,639 and rakhain 16,932. The tribal population has a high concentration in the Rangamati (18.52% of the total tribal population)), khagrachhari (13.9%) and bandarban (9.15%) districts of the chittagong hill tracts. Major tribes living in these two districts are chakma, marma, tripura, Murong,Tanchanghya and rakhain. Most Manipuris live in sylhet, while Garos and hajongs live mainly in the mymensingh area and Santals in dinajpur and rajshahi districts. The total number of tribal population increased to 1.4 million in 2001 living in 289,928 households. The percentage of tribal populations in Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban districts in 2001 were 18.27%, 13.66% and 10.12% respectively. The division-wise distribution of tribal populations in 2001 show that 3.29% lived in Barisal, 49.82% in Chittagong, 10.11% in Dhaka, 2.28% in Khulna 25.77% in Rajshahi and 7.74% in Sylhet divisions.

Table 2 Distribution of tribal population by religion, 1991.

Religion Population Rural
Both sex Male Female Both sex Male Female
Total 1205, 978 79,693 78,507 988,354 74,807 73,639
 % 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Muslim 18.0 18.4 17.6 14.4 14.5 14.3
Hindu 21.2 21.0 21.3 22.5 22.4 22.7
Buddhist 36.7 36.9 36.5 35.8 36.2 35.5
Christian 11.0 10.8 11.2 12.2 12.1 12.4
Others 13.1 12.9 13.3 15.1 14.9 15.2

Source Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 1991.

Religious composition Muslims constitute 89.7% of the total population of Bangladesh according to the Census 2001. The Hindu population is 9.2% of the total population. Buddhists, Christians, and the people of other religions constituted 1.2% of the total population. There had been a steady increase in the proportion of Muslim population since 1901. The proportion of Muslims increased from about two-thirds in 1901 to 89.7% in 2001.

In 1947-1951 and in 1961-1971, the proportion of the Muslim population grew in default because of the migration of the Hindu people to India. A relatively higher level of fertility among Muslims may have contributed to increase in the Muslim population as well.

Table 3 Population by religious communities in percentage, 1901-2001.

Census year Total Muslim Hindu Buddhist Christian Others
1901 100.0 66.1 33.0 - - 0.9
1911 100.0 67.2 31.5 - - 1.3
1921 100.0 68.1 30.6 - - 1.3
1931 100.0 69.5 29.4 - 0.2 1.0
1941 100.0 70.3 28.0 - 0.1 1.6
1951 100.0 76.9 22.0 0.7 0.3 0.1
1961 100.0 80.4 18.5 0.7 0.3 0.1
1974 100.0 85.4 13.5 0.6 0.3 0.3
1981 100.0 86.7 12.1 0.6 0.3 0.3
1991 100.0 88.3 10.5 0.6 0.3 0.3
2001 100.0 89.7 9.2 0.7 0.3 0.2

Source Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2003.

Growth of population The economic prosperity of Bengal attracted people from all other parts of India as well as from other countries of the world. Attracted by the prospects of abundant agricultural productions in Bengal a large number from other parts of India started to migrate to and settle in the active delta regions in the 16th century. Muslims from various parts of India came to settle in the region during the period between the 13th and 18th centuries. Their number in the area was about 9 million in 1600. The total population of the area was 11.8 million in 1770 and 14.5 million in 1801. Both the birth and mortality rates were very high and the increase in population was attributed mainly to migration from other parts of India.

Table 4 Density of population per square kilometre, 1901-2001.

Census year Density Changing of %
1901 196 -
1911 214 9.18
1921 225 5.14
1931 241 7.11
1941 285 18.26
1951 299 4.91
1961 374 25.08
1974 518 38.50
1981 609 17.57
1991 755 23.97
2001 881 16.69

Source Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2003.

The population of Bangladesh was around 14.5 million in 1801. It was doubled to 28.9 million after 100 years in 1901. The growth rate, however, was almost constant at a level of 0.67%. The slow growth of population continued till 1931 when the size of the population reached 35.3 million. After 1931, the doubling of population took place every 40 years. It is evident that 24 years after the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, the population of the country increased by nearly the size of its population in 1961 (50 millions). The alarming demographic pressure crippled all other efforts at sustained economic growth and development. The rate of growth of population is still very high (about 1.5% during 1991-2001 and expected to be slightly lower during 2001-2011 period). The population growth rate has not reached the replacement level yet and even if the population reaches replacement level fertility soon, the impact of demographic pressure will continue to be a major problem for Bangladesh for at least the next 50 years.

Table 5 Percent distribution of population by age distribution of sex, 1981-2001.

Age group 2001 1991 1981
Both sexes Male Female Both sexes Male Female Both sexes Male Female
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
0-4 13.0 13.1 12.9 16.5 16.1 16.8 17.0 16.6 17.4
5-9 13.6 13.8 13.3 16.6 16.6 16.5 16.3 16.0 16.5
10-14 12.8 13.2 12.4 12.2 12.6 11.7 13.4 13.9 12.9
15-19 9.7 9.9 9.5 8.4 8.3 8.5 9.4 9.2 9.5
20-24 8.8 7.6 10.1 8.3 7.5 9.2 7.8 7.2 8.4
25-29 8.7 7.7 9.8 8.5 7.9 9.2 7.4 7.2 7.5
30-34 7.1 6.8 7.4 6.2 6.2 6.3 5.7 5.5 5.9
35-39 6.5 6.6 6.3 5.6 6.0 5.3 5.1 5.3 4.9
40-44 5.0 5.4 4.6 4.3 4.5 4.2 4.2 4.3 4.2
45-49 3.7 4.1 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.1 3.3 3.5 3.0
50-54 3.2 3.4 3.1 2.9 3.0 2.8 3.1 3.2 3.0
55-59 1.9 2.1 1.8 1.8 2.0 1.7 1.9 2.1 1.7
60-64 2.3 2.4 2.2 2.1 2.2 2.0 2.2 2.3 2.1
65-69 1.2 1.3 1.1 1.0 1.2 0.9 1.0 1.2 0.9
70+ 2.7 2.9 2.4 2.2 2.5 1.9 2.4 2.6 2.1

Source Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2003.

The growth rate of the population was much lower than 1% during the period between 1801 and 1931. Records showed a relatively high growth rate in 1941. This could be the result of a gross overenumeration of population pushed politically by both Hindu and Muslim religious groups. Also, there was almost a zero growth of population during 1941-1951, caused by large-scale migration after the independence of Pakistan. The population growth rate was considerably higher after 1951. The rate was 1.90% during 1951-1961, 2.62% during 1961-1974, 2.83% during 1974 -1981, and 1.53% during 1991-2001.

Table 6 Population by broad age-group in percentage and dependency ratio, 1911-2001.

Year Total 0-14 15-59 60+ Dependency ratio
1911 100.0 42.3 53.3 4.4 88
1921 100.0 42.3 53.6 4.1 87
1931 100.0 41.9 54.9 3.2 82
1941 100.0 41.4 55.1 3.5 81
1951 100.0 42.1 53.5 4.4 87
1961 100.0 46.0 48.8 5.2 105
1974 100.0 48.0 46.3 5.7 116
1981 100.0 46.7 47.8 5.5 109
1991 100.0 45.1 49.5 5.4 102
2001 100.0 39.3 54.6 6.1 83

Source Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2003.

Table 7 Male population aged 10 years and above by marital status, age and sex in percentage, 1974-2001.

Age group 2001 1991 1981 1974
Never Married Newly Married Widowed Divorced Separated Never Married Newly Married Widowed Divorced Separated Never Married Newly Married Widowed Divorced Separated Never Married Newly Married Widowed Divorced Separated
Total 43.6 55.8 0.6 42.1 57.2 0.7 42.8 55.9 1.3 43.3 53.9 2.8
10-14 98.8 1.2 0.0 99.5 0.5 - 99.0 1.0 - 99.3 0.7 -
15-19 96.0 3.9 0.1 95.0 4.9 0.1 99.3 6.6 0.1 92.3 7.5 0.2
20-24 69.3 30.5 0.2 68.4 31.4 0.2 59.7 39.9 0.4 60.1 39.1 0.8
25-29 31.7 68.0 0.3 26.4 73.3 0.3 21.2 78.3 0.5 22.4 76.3 1.2
30-34 11.6 88.1 0.3 7.2 92.5 0.2 6.3 93.1 0.6 5.7 93.0 1.3
35-39 4.4 95.3 0.3 2.1 97.6 0.3 2.3 97.0 0.7 2.2 96.6 1.2
40-44 2.9 96.6 0.4 1.1 98.4 0.5 1.9 97.1 1.0 1.5 96.8 2.1
45-49 2.1 97.4 0.5 0.6 98.7 0.7 1.2 97.5 1.3 1.1 96.8 2.1
50-54 2.7 96.3 1.0 0.7 98.1 1.2 1.7 96.3 2.0 0.8 95.8 3.2
55-59 2.4 96.3 1.3 0.4 98.0 1.6 1.2 96.2 2.6 0.8 95.4 3.8
60+ 4.0 92.1 3.9 0.6 95.1 4.3 0.7 90.7 8.6 0.8 90.2 9.0

Source Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2003.

Two major components of population growth are fertility and mortality. Estimated gross birth rates were very high at a level of around 50/1000 for a long period until mid 1970s. It eventually reduced to 27.8 per thousand in 1994 and 22.98 per thousand in 2011. The decline in the level of gross death rate was initiated long ago. The estimated gross death rates were higher than 40 per thousand and it came down to a level of less than 40 for the first time during 1931-1941. The highest gross death rate of 47.3 per thousand was during the period between 1911 and 1921. The influenza epidemic alone caused 400,000 deaths in 1918. The present (2011) mortality rate has been reduced to 5.75 per thousand, accordingly to an estimate done in July 2011.

Table 8 Female population aged 10 years and above by marital status, age and sex in percentage, 1974-2001.

Age group 2001 1991 1981 1974
Never Married Newly Married Widowed Divorced Separated Never Married Newly Married Widowed Divorced Separated Never Married Newly Married Widowed Divorced Separated Never Married Newly Married Widowed Divorced Separated
Total 28.7 63.3 8.0 25.2 64.8 10.0 23.7 63.4 12.9 24.4 61.2 14.4
10-14 96.4 3.2 0.4 96.8 3.0 0.2 98.0 70.0 - 90.5 8.8 0.7
15-19 62.5 36.4 1.1 48.7 49.6 1.7 31.3 65.4 3.3 24.5 71.8 3.7
20-24 16.9 81.2 1.9 10.5 86.6 2.9 5.1 90.9 4.0 3.2 92.9 3.9
25-29 6.1 91.3 2.5 2.4 94.0 3.6 1.3 94.4 4.3 0.9 95.2 3.9
30-34 3.4 92.5 4.1 1.1 93.8 5.1 1.0 92.9 6.1 0.6 93.4 6.0
35-39 2.2 91.8 6.0 0.6 92.1 7.3 0.4 89.8 9.6 0.4 89.8 9.8
40-44 2.2 87.2 10.5 0.6 86.9 12.5 0.7 81.9 17.4 0.5 81.4 18.1
45-49 2.0 83.9 14.1 0.4 81.7 17.9 0.3 74.5 25.2 0.3 75.1 24.6
50-54 2.8 75.5 21.1 0.5 70.6 28.9 1.4 62.3 36.3 0.3 60.3 39.4
55-59 2.8 72.1 25.1 0.4 64.3 35.2 0.7 54.4 44.9 0.4 52.9 46.7
60+ 5.6 47.9 46.5 0.8 42.9 56.3 0.5 32.9 66.6 0.4 27.3 72.3

Source Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2003.

The factors that caused the high death rates in the period before 1921 were: (i) frequent recurrence of epidemics, (ii) mismanagement by the east india company administration, (iii) frequent occurrence of famines, and (iv) scarcity of food supplies. The most fatal epidemic diseases were cholera, malaria, smallpox and tropical fever (kalajar). Diseases like tuberculosis and plague were not prevalent in India prior to the invasion of the British. A slight increase in the gross death rate during 1941-1951 could be attributed to various factors associated with the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. There was a sharp decline in the gross death rate during the subsequent time periods of 1951-1961 and 1961-1974. The Sample Vital Registration System of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics estimated gross mortality rates as 8.7 per thousand in 1995 and 5.6 per thousand in 2007. On the other hand, the gross birth rate declined from 26.5 per thousand in 1995 to 20.4 per thousand in 2007. It is noteworthy that the gross birth rate was either more than 50 per thousand until 1961 or near about 50 until mid seventies but started to decline thereafter and newly it is around 20 per thousand.

Table 9 Mean age at marriage by sex and locality, 1974-2001.

Locality 1974 1981 1982 1991 2001
Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female
Bangladesh 24.0 15.9 25.8 17.8 25.6 17.7 24.9 18.0 25.3 19.0
Urban 25.6 17.8 27.8 19.1 27.1 18.7 26.3 19.1 26.8 20.0
Rural 23.7 16.3 25.4 17.6 25.7 17.5 24.4 17.6 24.8 18.6

Source Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2003.

Table 10 Growth of urban population, 1901-2001.

Census year Urban population Annual growth rate (exponential)
Number Percent
1901 702035 2.43 -
1911 807024 2.55 1.39
1921 878480 2.64 0.85
1931 1073489 3.02 2.00
1941 1537244 3.66 3.59
1951 1819773 4.33 1.69
1961 2640726 5.19 3.72
1974 6273602 8.78 6.66
1981 13228163 15.18 10.66
1991 20872204 19.63 4.56
2001 28605200 23.1 3.15

Source Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2003.

Density of population The present (2011) density of population in Bangladesh is 964 per square kilometre and it was 839 per square kilometre in 2001. The density of population was 196 per square kilometre in 1901 and the increased steadily to 299 in 1951, 609 in 1981 and 881 in 2001.

Table 11 Population of statistical metropolitan areas during 1991 and 2001.

SMA 2001 1991 Decadal growth rate
Both sexes Male Female Both sexes Male Female
Dhaka 10712206 5978482 4733724 6844131 3833041 3011090 56.5
Chittagong 3385800 1843230 1542570 2348428 1342269 1006159 44.2
Khulna 1340826 711845 628981 1001825 544860 456965 33.8
Rajshahi 700140 372895 327245 544649 285099 259550 28.5

Source Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2003.

This indicates that although the growth rate has declined substantially during the recent decades but the increase in the total population is going through adding a large population every decade which is evident from the increase in the density of population. During the 1981-2001 period, on an average, 272 additional people started to live in an area of square kilometre which is about the density of population during the period 1931-1941. The increase in the population density was by 119 people per square kilometre during the 1991-2001 period. Bangladesh has been experiencing an increasing additional population per square kilometre every year.

Table 12 Cities with more than 100,000 population during 1991 and 2001.

City Population Decadal growth rate
2001 1991
Sylhet 320280 117398 172.8
Rangpur 251840 191398 31.6
Barisal 254660 170232 32.0
Mymensingh 209660 188713 11.1
Jessore 192240 139710 37.6
Nawabganj 163400 130577 25.1
Bogra 162140 120170 34.9
Comilla 160920 135313 18.9
Dinajpur 156300 127815 22.3
Sirajganj 129720 107902 20.2
Jamalpur 128060 103556 23.7
Madhabdi 122780 - -
Tangail 119060 106004 12.3
Pabna 112460 103277 8.9
Naogaon 107160 101266 5.8
Brahmanbaria 104120 109032 -4.5
Saidpur 100240 104771 -4.3

Source Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2003.

Age-sex composition In 1991, 16.1% of males and 16.8% of females in Bangladesh were less than 5 years old as compared to 13.1% males and 12.9% females in 2001.A little less than half of the males and females were under 15 years of age in 1991 which reduced to 39.3% in 2001. This is indicative of the very young age structure of the population of the country, reflecting a high level of fertility in the recent past. Another salient feature of the country's population is a very high proportion of women in the reproductive age (42.3% in 1991 and 51.0% in 2001).

Table 13 Literacy rate of population 7 years and above by sex, 1974-2001.

Year Both Sexes Male Female
1974 26.83 36.62 16.43
1981 25.99 33.84 17.52
1991 32.40 38.90 25.45
2001 45.32 49.56 40.83

Source Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2003.

A comparison of women population in the reproductive age groups demonstrates a sharp increase during 1991-2001 period from 42.3 percent to 51.0 percent. In 2011, most of the population (61.1%) belong to 15-64 years age group, while 0-14 years comprises of 34.3% and 65 years and over 4.7% of the population. Although the proportion of elderly population of age 60 years and higher is still relatively small (5.4% in 1991 and 6.1% in 2001), it is likely that the proportion will increase rapidly with the process of population momentum in the near future.

Table 14 Age-specific fertility rates (per 1,000 women) and total fertility rates (TFRs), Bangladesh, 1975-2007.

Age group 1975 BFS 1989 BFS 1991 CPS 1993-94 BDHS 1996-97 BDHS 1999-00 BDHS 2004 BDHS 2007 BDHS
15-19 109 182 179 140 147 144 135 126
20-24 289 260 230 196 192 188 192 173
25-29 291 225 188 158 150 165 135 127
30-34 250 169 129 105 96 99 83 70
35-39 185 114 78 56 44 44 41 34
40-44 107 56 36 19 18 18 16 10
45-49 35 18 13 14 6 3 3 1
TFR 6.3 5.1 4.3 3.4 3.3 3.3 3.0 2.7

Note For the 1975 BFS and 1989 BFS, the rates refer to the five year period preceding the survey; for the other surveys, the rates refer to the three year period preceding the survey. Source 2007 BDHS (NIPORT, 2009:50).

Dependency ratio The dependency ratio (ratio of population in the age group 15-59 and population in the young (0-14) and old (60 and above) age groups) show that during the period from 1911 to 1951 the ratio varied in the range from 81 to 88.

Then it was above 100 (ranging from 102 to 116) during 1961 to 1991. In 2001, the dependency ratio again declined to 83. The highest dependency ratio (116) was observed in 1974 which declined to 102 in 1991 and newly it has a declining trend and is expected to decline further in the next few decades due to increase in the population belonging to age groups 15-59. During the next few decades, the population will have a golden period in terms of economic benefits due to rapid decline in the dependency ratio. If the population policy takes account of this increased labour force with appropriate manpower planning, then the country can make strides towards economic progress very rapidly. In other words, the human capital accumulation plans can make use of this demographic advantage.

Table 15 Percentage of newly married women aged 10-49 who are newly using specific family planning methods, Bangladesh, 1975-2007.

Method 1975 BFS 1983 CPS 1985 BFS 1989 CPS 1991 BDHS 1993-94 BDHS 1996-97 BDHS 1999-00 BDHS 2004 BDHS 2007 BDHS
Any method 7.7 19.1 25.3 30.8 39.9 44.6 49.2 53.8 58.1 55.8
Any modern method 5.0 13.8 18.4 23.2 31.2 36.2 41.5 43.4 47.3 47.5
Pill 2.7 3.3 5.1 9.6 13.9 17.4 20.8 23.0 26.2 28.5
IUD 0.5 1.0 1.4 1.4 1.8 2.2 1.8 1.2 0.6 0.9
Injectables U 0.2 0.5 0.6 2.6 4.5 6.2 7.2 9.7 7.0
Norplant U U U U U U 0.1 0.5 0.8 0.7
Vaginal methods 0.0 0.3 0.2 0.1 U U U U U U
Condom 0.7 1.5 1.8 1.8 2.5 3.0 3.9 4.3 4.2 4.5
Female sterilisation 0.6 6.2 7.9 8.5 9.1 8.1 7.6 6.7 5.2 5.0
Male sterilisation 0.5 1.2 1.5 1.2 1.2 1.1 1.1 0.5 0.6 0.7
Any traditional method 2.7 5.4 6.9 7.6 8.7 8.4 7.7 10.3 10.8 8.3
Periodic abstinence 0.9 2.4 3.8 4.0 4.7 4.8 5.0 5.4 6.5 4.9
Withdrawal 0.5 1.3 0.9 1.8 2.0 2.5 1.9 4.0 3.6 2.9
Other traditional methods 1.3 1.8 2.2 1.8 2.0 1.1 0.8 0.9 0.6 0.6
Number of women U 7,662 7,822 10,907 9,745 8,980 8,450 9,720 10,582 10,192

U= Unknown (not available); 1Data from 2007 is restricted to newly married women age 15-49. Source 2007 BDHS (NIPORT et al, 2009:61).

Marital status The distribution of population by marital status in 1991 shows that out of all males aged 10 years and above, the never-married, newly married, and the widowed, divorced or separated were 42.1%, 57.2% and 0.7% respectively, compared to 25.2%, 64.8% and 10.0% respectively for females.

Table 16 Trends in fnfant and childhood mortality 1989 to 2006 (BDHS).

Mortality 1989-93 1992-96 1995-99 1999-2003 2002-2006
Infant 87 82 66 65 52
Child 50 37 30 24 14
Under-five 133 116 94 88 65

Source 2007 BDHS (NIPORT et al, 2009:102).

During the 1991-2001 period, the never married males increased slightly from 42.1% in 1991 to 43.6% in 2001 as compared to from 25.2% in 1991 to 28.7% in 2001 for females. The newly married males decreased from 57.2% in 1991 to 55.8% in 2001. Among the females, the percent newly married decreased from 64.8% in 1991 to 63.3% in 2001.

The widowed/divorced/separated category shows a decline from 0.7% to 0.6% for males and 10% to 8% for females during the 1991-2001 period. marriage is almost universal among males of age 30 years and above as compared to females of age 25 years and above. About 5% of the males in the age group 15-19 appeared to be newly married in 1991 as compared to that of 3.9% in 2001. This decline is more evident for age group 15-19 among females, 49.6% newly married in age group 15-19 in 1991 and 36.4% in 2001.

Table 17 Population by division, 1901-2001.

Division 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1974 1981 1991 2001 Percent
Bangladesh 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 -
Barisal 8.59 8.28 8.55 8.97 9.07 8.69 8.38 7.6 7.47 7.02 6.59 -2.00
Chittagong 16.45 17.2 17.9 19.02 20.19 20.7 19.9 19.4 19.45 19.3 19.47 +3.02
Dhaka 28.77 29.8 30.2 30.05 30.72 30 30.1 29.8 30.13 30.7 31.48 +2.71
Khulna 13.13 12.1 11.57 11.2 10.87 11.1 11.4 12.3 12.21 11.9 11.79 -1.34
Rajshahi 26.04 25.5 24.87 23.98 22.4 22.3 23.3 24.3 24.25 24.7 24.29 -1.75
Sylhet 7.02 7.1 6.91 6.93 6.74 7.29 6.86 6.66 6.49 6.36 6.38 -0.64

Source Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2003.

However, the proportion of newly married was much higher in the age groups below 20 years among females. Three per cent of the females of age 10-14 and almost 50% of age 15-19 were newly married according to the 1991 census. Although it reduced to 36.4% in 2001, we observe that 81.2% of the females aged 10 years and above were married in the age group 20-24. This is an indication of the high prevalence of early marriage among females in Bangladesh. The proportion of widowed, divorced, or separated females steadily increases with age among female population from 0.2% in the age group 10-14 to 56.3% in the age group 60 years and above. In 2001, the widowed/divorced/separated category demonstrates an increase from 0.4% in the age group 10-14 to 46.5% in the age group 60 years and above. There is decline in the percent widowed/divorced/separated during the 1991-2001 period.

The singulate mean age at marriage of males was 19 years in 1931 as compared to that of 12.6 years for females. The difference in the mean ages for males and females was 6.4 years. According to the Population Census, the mean age increased to 24.2 years for males and to 18.1 years for females in 1991 as compared to 25.2 years for males and 19 years for females in 2001. The difference in the mean age at marriage for males and females remains above 6 years during the period 1931-2001.

Urbanisation The process of urbanization in Bangladesh has been very rapid since 1961. The census enumeration in 1901 recorded only 0.7 million people living in urban areas but the number increased slowly to 2.6 million in 1961. The urban population increased from 2.4% in 1901 to 5.2% in 1961. However, the percentage of urban population started to increase sharply since 1961. After the independence of Bangladesh, the urban population was 6.27 million in 1974 and then the urban population increased to 20.87 million in 1991 and 28.60 million in 2001. In 1901, the urban population constituted only 2.43% of the total population and in 2001 the urban share increased sharply to was 23.1%. In other words, newly about one-fourth of the total population live in urban areas. The annual growth rate of the urban population was 3.15% during the 1991-2001 increased to 3.5% during 2005-2010 enhancing the urban population rate of 27%.

According to the 1991 census enumeration, the four most populated cities in the country were dhaka (10.7 million), chittagong (3.38 million), khulna (1.34 million) and Rajshahi (0.70 million). The urban population of Bangladesh increased at a rate much faster than that of the national population. The urban population grew at more than twice the rate of growth of the national population between 1941 and 1991.

The decadal growth rate was highest for Dhaka SMA (56.5%) as compared to 44.2% for Chittagong, 33.8% for Khulna and 28.5% for Rajshahi divisions during the Census period 1991-2001.

The decadal growth rate during the same period in cities with more than 100,000 population indicate that Sylhet had the largest increase (172.8%) followed by Jessore (37.6%), Bogra (34.9%), Barisal (32%) and Rangpur (31.6%).

Literacy Based on the definition of a literate person as one capable of writing a letter. In Bangladesh the present literacy rate among population aged 7 years and above about 60% and it was 56.5% in 2009 and 45.32 percent in 2001 for both sexes, about 50% for males and nearly 41% for females.

In 1991 the literacy rate was 32.4%. The rate for males and females were 38.9% and 25.5% respectively. The literacy rate was 26.0% in 1981, 33.8% for males and 17.5% for females. Annual growth in the rate of literacy during the 1981-91 was higher for females (3.84%) than for males (1.42%). Similar pattern, was also observed during the 1991-2001 period. According to a UNICEF estimate literacy rates among male and female youths (aged 15-24 years) were 74% and 77 percent respectively for the period of 2005-2010. The gross enrolment rate in primary school, during 2007-2010, was 95%.

Fertility and contraception The three major factors that influence the decline in the level of fertility are the use of fertility reducing measures of Contraception, age at marriage, or the proportion of never married for females in the age groups below 20 years, and the pace of urbanisation. The reduction in fertility in Bangladesh was not preceded by any remarkable change in the socio-economic status. The government had traditionally given high priority to family planning programmes, and as a result, various activities were performed to motivate potential clients. For example, services were provided both at door-steps as well as at static centres known as Family Welfare Centres and Thana Health Complexes.

Initially, family planning workers promoted longer acting methods such as sterilization and IUD, but since the beginning of 1990s, there was a shift in the choice of methods. At present, most contraceptive users prefer modern reversible methods of shorter duration, such as oral contraceptives and injectables, rather than longer acting methods. In addition to family planning programmes, other factors that contributed to the decline in the level of fertility include an increase in the proportion of never married females in the younger ages, increase in the literacy rate and years of schooling, and rapid urbanisation.

The estimated total fertility rate (TFR) in Bangladesh in 1975 was 6.3. This declined to 3.3 in 1999-2000 and 2.7 in 2007. The steady decline in TFR indicates that, on an average, more than three births were averted per woman of reproductive age. The decline in TFR was largely attributed to the increase in the level of contraceptive prevalence from 7.7% in 1975 to 54% in 1999-2000 and 55.8% in 2007. The increase in the level of contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) took place in Bangladesh without any remarkable change in the human development status. In fact, the demand for contraceptives was generated through a strong programme to motivate people towards fertility regulation. In 2007, 47.5% of the newly married women were users of any modern method. The most popular method was oral pill (28.5%) followed by injectables (7%) and female sterilisation (5%).

Proportion never married The mean age at marriage is not a very good measure to register changes in the age at marriage of the males and females of different age groups. Delay in age at marriage in the younger ages can be offset by an acceleration in the marriage at relatively older ages. Hence, changes in the proportion of never married instead of mean age at marriage is a better analytical tool. The proportion of never married women of age group 15-19 increased from 31.3% in 1981 and 48.7% in 1991 to 62.5% in 2001. The steady increase in the proportion never married indicates a change in the marriage of teenagers. Similarly, the percent never married appeared to have an increase from 10.5% in 1991 to 16.9 percent in 2001 in the age group 20-24 years.

Mortality reduction Despite a significant reduction in the gross death rate, the level of infant mortality rate (IMR) in Bangladesh is still very high compared to that of many other developing countries. The declining trend in mortality was initiated more than 50 years ago and the gross death rate reduced from about 41 to 5.6 per thousand during this period. The level of IMR was 65 per thousand live births during 1999-2003 and further reduced to 52 per thousand during 2002-2006.

The neonatal and post-neonatal mortality rates show that there are still some formidable challenges to be met to reduce the level of mortality for infants. However, there was a substantial decline in the level of IMR for both sexes from 87 per thousand live births in 1989-93 to 66 per thousand live births in 1995-99. This might be attributed to the increasingly successful role of the EPI programme of the government of Bangladesh. The IMR remained consistently lower for females than for males during the same period and substantially higher in rural areas than in urban areas. A comparison between neonatal and post-neonatal mortality shows that although there is lower level of neonatal mortality for females, the post-neonatal mortality remains almost similar for both sexes.

The decline in the level of neonatal mortality rate for males was very sharp (from 71 per thousand live births in 1990 to 50 per thousand live births in 1995), but for females, it declined from 62 in 1990 to 47 in 1995. According to DHS 1993-94, two-thirds of the women took at least one dose of vaccine and 50% took two or more vaccines during pregnancy. A further decline in the level of IMR would require a major shift in the socio-economic status of the population of Bangladesh.

The life expectancy at birth increased from 56.1 years for both sexes in 1991 to 60.8 years in 1998 and 69.75 years in 2011. The life expectancy of females at birth has raised to 71.65 years against that of males. The life expectancy at birth indicates longer survival for those who live in the urban areas than those who live in the rural areas. There is, however, no substantial difference between life expectancies of males and females in Bangladesh.

Lifetime migration and change in composition of population by division Rough estimates from census data suggest that the number of lifetime migrants increased in Barisal, Khulna and Rajshahi divisions and decreased in Chittagong and Dhaka divisions in 1951. Since 1961, Barisal Division started to lose population through out-migration. Similarly, Chittagong experienced that lifetime out-migrants outnumbered lifetime in-migrants. Although Dhaka had more out-migrants than in-migrants during 1951-1961 censuses, it gained in net number of migrants since 1972. On the other hand, although Khulna division gained substantially by net migrants during 1951-74 period, there was a loss of population due to higher number of out-migrants than in-migrants in that division. Only Rajshahi division gained by net migrants in all census counts since 1951. The extent of gain in population by net migrants was 0.64 million in Dhaka division and by 0.42 million in Rajshahi division. However, these net migrants originated from Barisal division (0.48 million), followed by Khulna division (0.30 million) and Chittagong division (0.29 million).

The composition of population by division displays that during the 100 year period from 1901 to 2001, the percentage of population declined in Barisal, Khulna, Rajshahi and Sylhet divisions. Only Dhaka and Chittagong divisions show substantial increase in the percent distribution of the population.

Population policies and priorities A population programme was initiated in Bangladesh by the Family Planning Association of Bangladesh in 1953. Their efforts to provide clinical family planning methods were assisted by the government and external donor agencies. Government efforts began during 1960-65 through integrated health and family planning services, but with very limited success. An intensified family planning programme was initiated during the 1965-70 period to provide clinical services through communication programmes and outreach services. However, the turning point for implementing population programmes began on the basis of policies formulated during the First Five-Year Plan (1973-78). Population was given a high priority since the independence of Bangladesh. To provide services as well as to motivate potential clients at the grassroots levels, Family Welfare Assistants were employed. In subsequent five-year plans, government continued to support population sector programmes, which were expanded with inclusion of new components and activities such as construction of Family Welfare Centres (FWC), satellite clinics, local initiative programmes, maternal and child health care, reproductive health etc. NGOs also played an important role in expansion of population sector programmes.

The Health and Population Sector Programme (HPSP) was developed as a continuation of the Fourth Population and Health Project (FPHP) sponsored by IDA and some co-financiers for the period 1998-2003. Some of the major concerns identified during implementation of the FPHP were poor utilisation of government services and issues related to cost-effectiveness, sustainability, and quality of services. The specific recommendations that emerged from FPHP were: reorganising the service delivery system; improving management through capacity development and human resource development; organising effective management information system; implementing lessons from innovative and pilot projects; integrating family planning and reproductive health services; and enhancing cost-effectiveness, sustainability and quality of services.

The major objective of the Health and Population Sector Strategies (HPSS) is to reform the health and population sector to provide an Essential Services Package (ESP) to the population of Bangladesh. The main sectoral objectives of HPSS are maintenance of the momentum of efforts in Bangladesh to lower fertility and mortality, reduction of maternal mortality and morbidity, and reduction in the burden of communicable diseases. The components of ESP are basic reproductive and child health services, control of selected communicable diseases, limited curative care, and behaviour change communication. It is expected that ESP will be delivered through the primary health care system at community, union, thana and district levels. HPSP introduced a shift from door-steps service to a one-stop client-oriented service.

The Health, Nutrition and Population Sector Programme (HNPSP) during its implementation period of 2005-2010 has included nutrition, HIV/AIDS and urban health under the mechanism to ensure the services fully accessible to the poor. The Millenium Development Goals (MDG) are also emphasized in the recent policies in order to address the links between poverty, nutrition and some other MDG concerns such as maternal and child health.

Population momentum and its impact The population of Bangladesh will achieve replacement level fertility if the TFR reaches 2.2-2.3. However, due to the young age structure of the population, the population will continue to grow in the next 40-50 years after the time of attaining replacement level fertility until stabilization of the population size and structure is achieved. This is known as the population momentum. According to one projection based on prevailing contraceptive prevalence and age specific fertility rates, it is assumed that the population will be 185.2 million in 2021 and 243.9 million in 2051. Another scenario based on an increased level of CPR, decrease in age specific fertility rates, and decline in infant mortality rate suggests that the population size in these two reference years will be 157.9 million and 188.1 million respectively.

The increase in the number of females in the reproductive ages will pose the most formidable challenge to the new population policy. It is indicated from estimates according to BDHS 1996-97 that the projected number of women in reproductive ages will increase from 35.6 million in 2001 to 48.5 million and 56.3 million in 2021 and 2051 respectively

Another problem that will play an increasingly important role during the next decades is the process of ageing of population. According some estimates, the projected number of elderly population (60 years or older) which was 7.22 million in 2001, will be 15.09 million and 44.95 million in 2021 and 2051 respectively. During the period 1991-2021, the number of elderly people will increase 2.5 times while the size of the elderly population will increase 7.4 times during the period 1991-2051. Social, economic and health problems will increase and even go beyond control of conventional makeshift solutions if this issue is not addressed properly and if an adequate planning process is not initiated soon' [M Ataharul Islam and Shamal Chandra Karmaker]

Also see census.