Reviewing the trend of economic growth of the last ten years, it can be said with certainty that the economy of Bangladesh is at a particular stage of development at the moment. The government is committed to implementing the SDGs by 2030, just as it is working to achieve the national collective goal in the hope of elevating itself to the list of developed countries in 2041. With such prospects of growth, the entire financial sector need to adopt a visionary action plan. Not only sound education but alertness and dedication too are most required. In other words, far-reaching ideas, plans, initiatives and priority sector-based investments are needed to move the country's economy forward. With this investment, the working people of the country can make the wheel of the country's economy more dynamic in the fastest time with their labour and talent. And a huge opportunity for us is the demographic dividend. Demographic dividend is the age difference in a country's population - which is due to a decrease in birth rates and mortality rates.
The demographic dividend is the difference between the number of working-age-population aged 15-64 years and the number of non-working-age-population under 14 years of age and above 65 years of age. That is, if the number of working people is greater than the number of non-working people, then it is a demographic dividend. According to economists, there are four benefits to a demographic dividend: a. Improving labour supply, b. Growth of savings c. Human capital and d. Domestic market expansion. These four benefits can be ensured if this functional youth force can be harnessed. This demographic dividend period lasts a maximum of 20-30 years in a country. In other words, by 2040, the opportunity to achieve Bangladesh's economic growth at lightning speed by utilising the demographic dividend will begin to decline. At present, the number of working people in our country is about 65 per cent of the total population. The number of working people in Bangladesh is now 106.1 million (10 crore 61 lakh). Of this, the actual labour force is 62.1 million (59.5 million working in the public and private sectors, the remaining 2.6 million are still fully unemployed, and 44.0 million are completely unemployed).
If this demographic dividend is not properly managed during this period, i.e. by 2040, the trend of economic growth will continue to shrink if other things remain the same. Because after the demographic dividend period is over, the number of elderly people will increase due to further reduction in birth rate and death rate. In other words, this working youth group will be considered as a burden for the society and the country after three or four decades. Because of declining birth rates and improved health care, the number of working people in the world will continue to decline in the near future, while the number of older people will increase. Because the fertility rate in the world has been declining for a long time. The average number of children a woman gives birth to is called the fertility rate. That is the number of children born alive per woman. According to researchers, when a country's fertility rate falls below 2.1, that country's population tends to decline. Why is the fertility rate limit (2.1) so important?
Mathematically, if two children are born per couple, that is enough to keep the population at the same level. But no matter how advanced the healthcare system is, not all children survive to adulthood. That is why in the developed world, the birth rate has been set at 2.1 to keep the population at par. Our country's current fertility rate is 1.77 per cent. The rate was 4.48 per cent in the region in 1950 and 2.78 per cent in 2000. In other words, this fertility rate is declining in our country like other countries over time.
Researchers estimate that the world's population will reach its peak in 2064. Then the world's population will stand at 9.70 billion. Then it will continue to decline again and researchers estimate that the total population of the world will be 8.80 billion by 2100. The main reasons for this are the increasing participation of women in education and work and the easy availability of contraceptives. Its effects will be widely felt in many countries. For example, the population of Japan reached its highest level in 2017 and it was 128 million. From then on, the population of Japan began to decline. At present, the population of Japan in 2020 is 126.40 million, (July 28, 2020) and the birth rate is 1.62 per cent. By the end of this century, Japan's population will have shrunk to less than 53 million. The population of Bangladesh will also decrease in the same way. Because the birth rate of Bangladesh in the last three years 2017, 2018 and 2019 was 1.87 per cent, 1.86 per cent and 1.80 per cent respectively.
Many may think that the world's natural environment will be conducive to subsistence in the face of declining population. The rate of carbon emissions will decrease. Destructive activities such as deforestation for industrial development and global development will be stopped. That may be largely true. But the whole age structure of the population will be reversed as a result. The number of older people will be higher than the younger ones. And because of this, society will face various negative consequences. The results of a study show that in 2017, where the number of people over the age of 80 was 141 million, in 2100 it will stand at 866 million. Then the care of these elderly citizens, the overall issues including health care will be on the society and the state. To solve this problem, several countries will use immigration to increase their population.
Therefore, now is the time to boost the country's economy by engaging this working population in productive socio-economic activities. China, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan and Thailand, for example, have taken their economic position to new heights through the effective use of demographic dividends. If the benefits of the demographic dividend can be realized, then as Bangladesh's per capita income increases, more people will be economically active and their savings will increase. The question now is where to place the appropriate use of the demographic dividend. It is recognised that the garment sector is still the main source of export earnings in Bangladesh (86.0 per cent). It is very important to determine which other sectors outside the garment sector can be exploited to harness this working youths' potential. Therefore, it is time to formulate a roadmap for investment by designing a development curriculum. Then we have to formulate long, medium and short term plans for the successful implementation of the roadmap. In this context, it can be said that at present, rapid investment is required in various sectors including information and communication technology sector, light engineering sector, tourism and hospitality, agriculture and service industries. If this functional youth group of the country can be trained in these sectors through long-term planned training, then these trained youth groups will be able to establish their position in the country and in the international arena. And in the near future, Bangladesh will be a middle-income country and will be far ahead in the list of developed countries in 2041.
The writer is a researcher and educationist.