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Demographics of Bangladesh

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Recent estimates of Bangladesh's population range from 142 to 147 million, making it one of the ten most populous countries in the world. With a population similar to Russia's confined to an area of 144,000 square kilometers (55,600 sq mi), it is very densely populated. Bangladesh's population growth was among the highest in the world in the 1960s and 1970s, when the count grew from 50 to 90 million, but with the promotion of birth control in the 1980s, the growth rate slowed. The total fertility rate is now 3.1 children per woman, compared with 6.2 three decades ago. The population is relatively young, with the 0–25 age group comprising 60%, while 3% are 65 or older. Life expectancy is 63 years for both males and females.[33]

Bangladesh is ethnically homogeneous, with Bengalis comprising 98% of the population. The remainder are mostly Bihari migrants and indigenous tribal groups. There are 13 tribal groups located in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the most populous of the tribes are the Chakmas. The region has been a source for ethnic tension since the inception of Bangladesh.[34] The largest tribal groups outside the Hill Tracts are the Santhals and the Garos (Achiks). Human trafficking has been a lingering problem in Bangladesh[35] and illegal immigration has remained a cause of friction with Myanmar[36] and India.[37]

The main language, as in West Bengal, is Bangla (Bengali), an Indo-Aryan language of Sanskrit origin and has its own script. Bangla is the official language of Bangladesh. English is used as second language among the middle and upper classes and in higher education. Since a President Order in 1987, Bangla is used for all official correspondence except foreign ones.

Two major religions practised in Bangladesh are Islam (88% US State Department est. 2005) and Hinduism (11% US State Dept. 2005). Ethnic Biharis are predominantly Shia Muslims. Other religious groups include Buddhists, Christians, and Animists.

Health and education levels have recently improved as poverty levels have decreased. Nevertheless, Bangladesh remains among the poorest nations in the world. Most Bangladeshis are rural, living on subsistence farming. Nearly half of the population lives on less than 1 USD per day.[38] Health problems abound, ranging from surface water contamination, to arsenic in the groundwater,[39] and diseases including malaria, leptospirosis and dengue. The literacy rate in Bangladesh is approximately 41%.[40] There is gender disparity, though, as literacy rates are 50% among men and 31% among women, according to a 2004 UNICEF estimate.[41] Literacy has gone up due to many programs introduced in the country. Among the most successful ones are the Food for education (FFE) program introduced in 1993,[42] and a stipend program for women at the primary and secondary levels


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