Population Movements of Bangladesh

Population movements is most common terms for a developing country though it is available in developed country. Population movements of Bangladesh can be classified into two way first one is they usually move rural area to urban and second one people of Bangladesh often try to international migration for various purpose. Detail discussion about this both migration are given below:

Population movements of Bangladesh

Rural-urban migration

It is not possible to study the extent of internal migration within Bangladesh from the information available in the Census data. What is available in Census data is some limited information about the place of birth of respondents and it is difficult to deduce any movement patterns from this.

To get an idea of the extent of internal migration, we have to rely on micro level studies of rural-urban migration focusing on particular regions (such as comilla district) and studies of the informal sector in Dhaka where a majority of the migrants appear to converge.


The reasons for rural-urban migration identified in these studies can be grouped into:

  • Push factors
  • Pull factors

Push factors primarily refer to issues at the point of origin that propel individuals to move. In contrast, pull factors are defined as features at the point of destination that attract migrants to particular places.

Out-migration is generally higher from villages that are characterized by land scarcity, an unequal distribution of land and a high proportion of landless labour. Most internal migrants in Bangladesh come from the districts of Faridpur, Barisal, Comilla Noakhali and Mymensingh.

Since both push and pull factors operate in driving people to look for jobs elsewhere, migration often does not relate significantly to the skills level of the rural inhabitants who migrate.

Very often, it is the unskilled who have to leave looking for jobs because of push factors; at other times more skilled people leave because there are pull factors in the form of better job opportunities elsewhere. Thus, overall we can find migrants of all skill levels who migrate.

The main pull factors relate to:

  • More diversified livelihood opportunities
  • Higher probability of finding work, higher wages
  • The existence of a network of friends and relatives in the target destination
  • Greater educational possibilities

It is estimated that as much as 40% of the recent urban growth n Bangladesh is due to this internal flow of people.

The emergence of garment industries has introduced the new phenomenon of female migration. Barring severe food crises or natural calamities, the move to urban areas has initially been very largely male dominated, with female members of the household following later.

In contrast, the new garment factories that have been set up in urban areas in Bangladesh in large numbers since the 1980s have attracted primarily female migrants.

  • It is estimated that 30% of the slums of Dhaka are populated by migrants. The accompanying environmental degradation and the pressure on infrastructure, such as water, sewerage and sanitation systems, are obvious.
  • There are also fears that large-scale migration can lead to criminality if jobs are not available for the new migrants.

On the other hand, migration has led to a great deal of economic vitality and allowed the growth of new manufacturing industries and services sectors. The recent high rates of growth of the Bangladesh economy have been driven by the many sectors that have drawn on hardworking rural migrants.

Historically, the growth of manufacturing and the transition from agricultural to industrial societies has always been associated with periods of large-scale migration, the growth of cities and, for a time, the growth of slums. Only later have slums been transformed into residential areas for a growing urban working population.

It is not desirable to try to reverse this historical pattern in contemporary Bangladesh, but the pace of migration has to be matched by investments in urban infrastructure, sanitation and housing.

International migration

More recently, international migration has become more important than internal rural-urban migration within Bangladesh. Some micro-studies have shown that in the mid-1980s, 37% of rural migrant were going outside the country to the Middle East and to South East Asia, while around 32% were migrating to Dhaka.

The process of Bangladeshis migrating to the UK and other western countries has also been superseded by people moving to the Middle East in the 1970s and 1980s and to South East Asia in the 1980s and the 1990s.


The growth in international migration has been driven by:

  • Unemployment and underemployment at home, including the difficulties of finding jobs or better job opportunities in the urban areas higher incomes offered by the international labour market, even for unskilled jobs.
  • A pro-active governmental attempt to enhance migration to the middle East and other areas to bring in needed foreign exchange. The reasons underlying this have been both economic and political. International migration is seen as an important mechanism for reducing employment pressures at home as well for earning foreign exchange and thereby enhancing investment.


The skill distribution of Bangladeshis migrating to the Middle East form Bangladesh in the late 1970s and early 1980s is shown in the image below. Four skill categories are identified: professionals and semi-professionals, skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled.

  • Professionals and semi-professionals include doctors, engineers, university/college teachers, accountants, computer experts.
  • Skilled and semi-skilled include workers such as masons, carpenters, fitters, and mechanics.
  • Unskilled consists of construction workers, cleaners, helpers to masons and municipal workers.
Skill Distribution of Bangladesh Migrating to the Middle East.

It is clear from Table 9.3 that the majority of international migrants going from Bangladesh to the Middle East were unskilled workers. In contrast, the number of professionals and semi-professionals was less than 10%. As a consequence:

  • The foreign exchange earned by Bangladesh has been rather limited because most Bangladeshi migrants were working in sectors where they earned relatively little.
  • Workers in categories that were least likely to find jobs within Bangladesh have succeeded in going aboard and contributing to the well-being of their families.
  • Workers in categories that were least likely to find jobs within Bangladesh have succeeded in going abroad and contributing to the well-being of their families.
  • The number of professionals and skilled workers within Bangladesh in limited because of relatively poor educational infrastructure and low levels of literacy compared to neighboring countries. This has meant that even with the relatively small numbers of skilled and professional migrants leaving the country, the impact on the Bangladesh economy from losing these skills has been significant.

The migration patterns from Bangladesh point not only to the need to accelerate domestic employment creation and the growth of non-agricultural employment, but also to the shortages of skilled workers and professionals in Bangladesh.

The pattern of migration in therefore consistent with the evidence of low educational standards in Bangladesh, and points to the pressing need for improving skill creation and strengthening higher education in particular.

By 2002, twenty years from the period shown in Table 9.3, the extent of international migration.

In 2002, the total spending on health in Bangladesh was 3.1% of Bangladesh’s total GDP (gross domestic product). But public health spending was only 0.8% of GDP, the remaining 2.3% of GDP working overseas.

As with rural-urban migrants, the overwhelming majority of international migrants are male. The economic benefits of international migration, both for the families of the migrants and for the Bangladesh economy, are demonstrated by the growth in annual remittance flows of around 10% per year over the past 25 years.

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