Country’s senior citizens (60 and above) will outnumber children (aged 0-5) in less than a decade due to a marked success in reducing child mortality and because of other interventions for extending life expectancy, according to a population expert.
“Bangladesh will witness a rapid change in its population structure due to the successes of social policy interventions, which have driven down child mortality and high fertility rates, and extended life expectancy,” Prof Dr Bazlul H Khondker, a teacher of the Department of Economics at Dhaka University, told a policy dialogue on Sunday.
General Economics Division (GEC) of the Planning Commission organised the dialogue on ageing population at the NEC auditorium in city’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar under its ‘Strengthening Capacity of General Economic Council to Integrate Population Issues into Development Plans Project’.
Chaired by Planning Commission member Dr Shamsul Alam, the policy dialogue was addressed, among others, by Planning Minister Air Vice Marshal (retd) AK Khandaker, State Minister for Social Welfare Adv Promode Mankin, Population Planning and Research chief of UNFPA Bangladesh Dr Shantana Halder and former division chief of General Economics Division Prof Dr MA Mabud.
In a power-point presentation, Prof Bazlul H Khondker said health and water and sanitation interventions have had historic success in the reduction of child mortality from over 25 percent in 1970 (258 deaths per 1000 live births) to 4.2 per cent (42 deaths per 1000 live births) in 2013.
“Life expectancy at birth has improved dramatically in the same period, from 46 years to 70.5, and will be an estimated 80 years for the population born by 2050.”
Changing population will also alter the dependency ratio, he said, estimating that the ratio will almost triple from 5.4 to 16.2 in Bangladesh between 2000 and 2050.
Highlighting the emerging consequence of old-aged people, the population expert said that the share of elderly population is growing fast in the country.
“In 2010, 6.8 percent of the population was aged over 60 and Bangladesh will reach the 10 percent threshold – when countries are considered as ageing – in around 2026. By 2050, the over 60s age group will comprise a massive 23 percent of the population.”
Prof Khondker said most of the elderly people in Bangladesh suffer from basic human problems like poor financial support, senile diseases and absence of proper health and medicine facilities, exclusion and negligence, deprivation and socio-economic insecurity.
“The older people are not considered the main decision maker in their households, which links to a decreased ability to earn an income and lower control of household resources,” he said.
Planning Minister AK Khandaker said Bangladesh has achieved a marked progress in demographic and social indicators for taking policies, strategies and other interventions by the government.
The social safety net programmes are playing an effective role in combating poverty, he said, adding that the government has given about 14 percent of budget allocation for the social protection programmes.
Urging the international community to come forward for working hand-in-hand with Bangladesh to help the ageing people, the Planning Minister said it’s the government’s absolute priority to keep the dignity of elderly people.