Bangladesh’s working age population – between 15 and 64 years – increased by 4.88 per cent from 2011 to 2022, hitting 65.5 per cent or 10.82 crore of the total population, shows the latest census data.
A number of experts say the county can reap the benefits of this demographic dividend till the year 2038, which in turn would help Bangladesh achieve a sustainable and high economic growth.
If the government manages to boost women’s participation further in the national production and make the working age population more skilled, Bangladesh’s GDP will exceed nine per cent within 2030, they added.
An analysis of data collected by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) during latest and previous censuses show that Bangladesh’s demographic dividend has been on an upward trend for more than two decades. The country’s working age population – between 15 and 64 years – was 57.01 per cent or 7.44 crore of the total population in the 2001 census. The figure rose to 60.62 per cent or 8.79 crore in the 2011 census.
According to the 2022 preliminary census report, Bangladesh’s total population currently stands at 16.51 crore.
The demographic dividend is the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, mainly when the share of the working-age population (15 to 64) is larger than the non-working-age share of the population (14 and younger, and 65 and older), according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Speaking to The Business Post, Dhaka University’s Department of Population Science Prof Mohamamad Mainul Islam said, “Bangladesh should work on the young population now for the future economic development, as the country has only 15 to 16 years left to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend.
“This dividend will remain available till 2038. The government should keep this population in mind while planning to generate employment in the country. The government should ensure quality education, as well as vocational education, to create a more skilled workforce.”
It is high time to invest more in the education and health sectors, he added.
Meanwhile, Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh’s (PRI) Chairman Dr Zaidi Sattar said, “If the working population can be utilised through proper training, it will be possible to achieve nine per cent GDP growth by 2030.
“Besides, if the participation of women in national production can be increased, then it will be easier for Bangladesh to achieve higher growth.”
He continued, “Two things are necessary to increase the GDP growth further. First is increasing the size of the labour force, and the second is increasing productivity.”
In response to a question, the prominent economist said, “There is no jobless economic growth in Bangladesh. Exports and remittance play a major role in boosting the GDP. Both of these sectors are employment dependent.”
Providing recommendations on the country’s development plan for the upcoming years, Prof Mainul said, “The government has included demographic dividend in its national policy since 2016. So there is no scope to include another policy in this regard, instead it is time to start implementation.
“The government should now focus on creating a job market-oriented workforce to boost the country’s economic development. Many countries of the world did not get this opportunity, but Bangladesh has it.”
Echoing the same, Zaidi Sattar said, “Bangladesh needs to change the education system, which should be job-market-oriented. It means, the education system should be developed according to the current demand of workers in the job market.
According to the latest population census, in addition to increasing the demographic dividend, the number of children in Bangladesh is decreasing and the number of elderly people is increasing.
In 2011, the population aged between 0-14 years old was 34.64 per cent of the total population, which declined to 28.61 per cent in 2022. Besides, in the same period, the elderly population increased from 4.74 per cent to 5.89 per cent.
Experts say the number of elderly people will continue to grow as the demographic dividend declines. Therefore, healthcare for the elderly in the coming days should be looked at, along with other safety nets.