Bangladesh - Country Brief

With a total population of more than 160 million people living in an area of 148,460 square kilometres, which equals twice the size of the German state Bavaria – Bangladesh is the country with the highest population density of the world (1,145 people/ km²).

The annual growth rate of population has declined. However, considering the limited natural resources of the country the rate is still very high. For 2030, the World Bank assumes a population of almost 200 million people.  

Most of the country is only a few metres above sea levels. The rivers Jamuna, Ganges and Meghna that flow through the alluvial delta often cause floods. In addition, tropical cyclones in spring and late summer lead to high tidal waves that may cause disasters.

More than two thirds of the population live in rural areas and depend on small-scale subsistence agriculture. Land distribution is unequal: 40% of all households only own 3% of the land. With a share of 20% of the gross national product, agriculture is of decreasing importance for the country's economy.

The public sector, partly highly deficit state-owned companies as well as a centralistic and cumbersome administration hampers development. It is characterised by misuse of resources, which could be used in a more effective way considering the development of the country, as well as by low efficiency and is considered to be largely corrupt.

With an income per capita of 1.080 US-Dollar per year, Bangladesh belongs to the poorest countries in the world. According to the UN, in 2012 the percentage of people living below the poverty line was 31% (less than 1.25 US-Dollar/ day). Although this number implies a slight decline compared with previous years, as a result of the population growth it means a rise in the absolute number of poor people. 16,4% of the population has to be considered as ultra-poor; they live less than 1,805 kcal per day and are largely excluded from any kind of development.    

On the basis of repressive traditions, economic dependency, illiteracy and legal discrimination women are extremely disadvantaged: within the families, in public life and in the political sphere. Often the existing laws protecting women, e.g. laws against child marriages, dowry and polygamy, are not properly enforced and applied.

The human rights situation continues to be unsatisfactory. Members of minorities as well as journalists are only insufficiently protected by the state against attacks. The existing legal framework needs improvement in many aspects. In particular women and landless people are victims of direct and indirect violence in Bangladesh, e.g. because of land conflicts, kidnapping, fatwas and dowry. But only the wealthy section of the population can make use of courts. The vast majority of the poor people are subjected to arbitrariness of the authorities and wealthy people. These mechanisms to examine power contribute to keep poor people in poverty.