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Demographic dividend: BD should reap the advantages

Published : Thursday, 13 September, 2018 at 12:00 AM  Count : 152
Anwar Faruq Talukder

Around 65 per cent of Bangladesh's population is between the age of 15 and 64, which is considered as the working age. Bangladesh's demographic dividend started in 2001 and will end in 2051. However, the window will start reducing after 2031. A demographic dividend is the accelerated economic growth that can result from improved reproductive health, a rapid decline in fertility, and the subsequent shift in population age structure.

With fewer births each year, a country's working-age population grows larger relative to the young dependent population. With more people in the labour force and fewer children to support, a country has a window of opportunity for economic growth if the right social and economic investments and policies are made in health, education, governance, and the economy.

Countries with the greatest demographic opportunity for development are those entering a period in which the working-age population has good health, quality education, decent employment and a lower proportion of young dependents. Smaller numbers of children per household generally lead to larger investments per child, more freedom for women to enter the formal workforce and more household savings for old age. When this happens, the national economic payoff can be substantial. This is called a "demographic dividend."

The demographic dividend in many developing countries remains a possibility, but for the process to begin, countries must give high priority to substantially lowering fertility and child mortality through the following actions:

(1)    Invest in child survival and health programs.
         Commit to voluntary family planning to achieve the demographic transition.
         Invest in the reproductive health needs of both married and unmarried youth.
         Prioritize education -- especially secondary education for girls.

Bangladesh since 2007 has had more people of working age than non-working, known as demographic dividend. Yet, Bangladesh is unable to exploit the full potential of the demographic dividend as it cannot create adequate number of jobs for the working-age population, according to economists and intellectuals.

They suggested taking up measures including creating manpower according to the job requirement. Formal non-technical higher education is just creating a number of graduate and post graduate unemployed. They are neither getting job as per their desire nor doing their job with satisfaction. This situation can be narrated as "disguised unemployment". If we see the contribution of agriculture in GDP we find that the pie is continuously shrinking.

But still huge number of population are engaged in agriculture. Small and Medium Enterprises are called the life line of an emerging economy. Henceforth, in Bangladesh we have huge number of young population and also in the subcontinent, needs to address this sectors boost up strategies. Only encouragement in SMEs development will show the right path to use the demographic dividend. Expert also suggested for large-scale investments in quality and requirement basis technical education to cash in on the demographic dividend.

Some of the East and South-East Asian countries have invested heavily in human resource development, in particular education (technical and non-technical) and health, to achieve a higher economic growth rate during their time of demographic dividend.

China, Japan, Republic Korea and many other countries have reaped the demographic dividend to develop their economies but in Bangladesh, things are not on right way. We are just creating higher educated population. Though Bangladeshi economy has been doing well for the last several years where we are continuously achieving GDP growth above 6.00 per cent per annum but currently its job growth is the slowest in two decades.

It has been noted that the number of educated unemployment is increasing day by day, where uneducated people are somehow getting job to maintain their life. To get the maximum result of demographic dividend it is the right time to take right planning to show way to our youth. It's the combined responsibility of the government and private sectors. As an example, huge number of foreigners is working in our garments sector and they are getting handsome salary and a large amount of foreign currency going out form our country. We need to produce specialized technical manpower for garments industry. This industry will remain our number one foreign currency earner for next several years as the trade war among the developed economies started blustering.

So it's an opportunity for us to take new market and increase the share in the existing market. The export earning shows handsome positive growth in the first month of the new financial year 2018-2019, where the export earning recorded 6.94 per cent more than the target according to Export Promotion Bureau of Bangladesh. In order to grip the domestic job market in garments sector we need specific skilled worker and manager for this sector.   
Many Asian countries including Bangladesh are still in developing stages. But the era of demographic dividend is leaving faster, but the expected economic growth remains so far from us. Hence, question come in mind: will Bangladesh get old before it gets rich? Keeping this question in mind we have to work just now without further analysis.

To en-cash the demographic dividend we need to take appropriate policies on boosting SMEs, Agro based industries, producing skilled manpower for in house uses and exporting, empowering women in decision making, should prioritize on global standard education to Bangladesh to compete in international market, expand the vocational/technical education centres above congenial working atmosphere and good governance in the country.

The writer is Banker and Economic Analyst and he can be reached at

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