A Numbers Game

Bangladesh Population ProjectionRecently, the representative of the UNFPA in Bangladesh stated that the last census to be held in Bangladesh could be in 2021, due to the rapid urbanization of the country and the difficulty of enumeration in cities. The last Population and Housing Census, 2011, conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) showed the population at 149 million people.

However, should Bangladesh not conduct censuses beyond 2021, we would be losing out on valuable information that indicate where our economy and our demography are heading, and help guide policy matters. The UK is also planning similar changes and researchers are worried at the loss of invaluable info. In a world of ‘denominator management’, a small population (i.e. a small denominator) makes most economic indicators seem rosier. But to truly know where we stand and where we need to be, we need such detailed information and regular censuses, no matter how politically unpalatable or logistically nightmarish the process may be.

In the US, recent census data reveal a number of interesting facts that point to the direction of demographies and the economy. Among them are that White Americans will no longer be the majority by 2043, rural population is decreasing for the first time in the US and Asian & Hispanic populations are growing the fastest, in percentage and absolute terms respectively, becoming the bulwark of tomorrow’s labor force.

Across the globe, in India, the latest census puts the Indian population at 1.21 billion, the highest after China, with a population of 1.35 billion. While the Chinese report is buried under other production and development statistics, the Indian numbers paint a more detailed picture. The urban migration trend, like the US, is equally evident in India. The most heartening statistic is the growth in literacy rate to 73%, up by 8% from a decade ago.

Another report, the UN’s World Population Prospects projects that world population will grow to 8.1 billion by 2025. Among a number of interesting projections, the report forecasts that India’s population will be higher than China’s after 2028. Also, in developing countries, the younger population is fast outpacing the older generations, greatly increasing education and nourishment requirements; meanwhile in developed economies the population is aging at faster rate than birth rates, straining resources, need for a younger workforce and dependency ratios. These opposing forces are sure to shape migration trends/ opportunities and immigration policy dynamics.

As we mull over these serious issues and one last time hope that Bangladesh does not do away with censuses, there are other census issues to occupy us – from panda census in Chinawhale census in Australia to camera-trapped Royal Bengal Tiger census in Bangladesh.

Whatever you do, don’t just sit there being only a statistic.

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