One of the implications of the relatively high economic growth rates achieved in the last decade in Bangladesh has been a decline in the levels of poverty, and some improvement in human development indicators.
Life expectancy at birth was only 39.6 years in 1960. This was significantly below the life expectancy at birth in India at the time of 44 years and in (West) Pakistan of 43.1 years. But by 2002, the life expectancy at birth of 63 years in India and 64 years in Pakistan in 2002.
In other words, by being able to follow independent policies after 1971, and in particular by achieving high rates of growth since the 1980s, Bangladesh had virtually caught up with the South Asian average life expectancy. Since life expectancy depends on many factors including nutrition, health care and the distribution of income, it is a good indicator of the general level of development.
In overall poverty too, Bangladesh has moved from its extreme vulnerability in the early seventies to a position similar to India, though poerty is still more pronounced according to this measure compared ot Pakistan. The percentage of the population in 2002 below the international poverty line of $ a day or less in shown in figure.
On other indicators, Bangladesh still lags behind other South Asian countries. This is particularly true for adult literacy rates. In 1970, the adult (over the age of 15) literacy rate in Bangladesh was only 244%. This was better than the 21% adult literacy rate in (West) Pakistan at that time, but was significantly worse than the adult literacy rate of 34% in India.
By 2002, the adult literacy rate in Bangladesh had increased to 41% but it still lagged significantly behind India’s adult literacy rate of 60%. But overall, while many areas remain where improvements have to be made, Bangladesh has made significant progress in economic development and poverty reduction since independence.
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