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28 October, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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Family size getting smaller

Experts attribute trend to education, awareness, better life
JAGARAN CHAKMA

The average size of households in Bangladesh has been decreasing gradually, coming down to 4.06 in 2016 from 4.90 in 2001, according to the recently released Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) 2016 conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS). Experts say this trend will yield long-term results in the country’s socio-economic sphere. The decline is being attributed to education, awareness and economic development.

Population scientist Dr AKM Nurun Nabi said it is good news for Bangladesh, as the reduction in the household size indicates that people are preferring smaller families.

“I think it’s a result of education and awareness among the people,” he said, adding, “Women’s fertility rate, too, dropped to 2.3 in 2014 from 6.3 in 1971.”

Nabi also said that the average household size was 8.3 in 1972. But the scenario has changed over the last four decades due to an increasing literacy rate and economic development ushering in greater awareness in rural and urban areas.

Bangladesh is currently reaping demographic dividends, he added.

Prof. Sadeka Halim, dean of the social science faculty of Dhaka University, attributed the trend of declining household size to women venturing out and involving themselves in income-generating activities.

She welcomed the trend, saying it would take off with further development activities. “Usually, financially people prefer smaller familie. The quality of life has improved for the people and its impact is felt through the reduction of the family size,” she added.

“I think it’s the result of a large social impact that the people are now choosing to have small families,” she said.

In addition to education rendering an important effect, social and cultural motivations are also encouraging happy and solvent families to take this decision, she noted.

Executive director the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Dr Fahmida Khatun, felt social and economic values are making their impact felt. Small families are manageable and involve less expenditure, while increased income help to lead a happy life, she said.

A country’s average family size gradually become smaller as the country progresses towards becoming a developed country, she said, adding, “You see, European countries prefer small families. Bangladesh is developing rapidly, and, as a result, the family size is decreasing here. It’s only natural.”  According to the 2001 population census, the average household size was 4.90. It decreased to 4.44 in 2011.

According to HIES 2000, the average size of household was 5.18, which decreased to 4.84 in 2005 and further to 4.50 in 2010.

In rural areas, the average size of household was 5.19 in HIES 2000, 4.88 in HIES 2005 and 4.53 in HIES 2010.  In HIES 2016, it stands at 4.11.

A similar declining trend is also observed in urban areas. In HIES 2000, the average size of households was 5.13; it declined to 4.72 in 2005 and further to 4.41 in 2010. The HIES 2016 findings show that the average size of households in urban areas to be 3.93.

In HIES 2016, the highest household size of 4.94 is reported from Shylhet division, followed by Chittagong division with 4.47. The lowest household size of 3.74 is reported from Khulna division. It is preceded by Rajshahi (3.76) and Mymensingh (3.85).

The overall size of households in rural areas is still higher compared to urban areas, except in Khulna division where the urban household size is higher than the rural household size.

The report shows that the highest concentration of population in the 10–19 years age group in both HIES 2010 and HIES 2016.

The percentage of population in the lowest age group (0–4 years) has been found to be 9.98 per cent in 2016 against 10.30 per cent in 2010. In the age group 5–9 years, the percentage of population was 12.32 per cent in 2010, but declined to 10.69 per cent in 2016. This reduction in the proportion of population in the lower age group appears to be the outcome of a declining growth rate and reduction in the total fertility rate in recent years. On the other hand, the percentage of population in the upper-most age group (65 years and above) was seen to be increasing. It was 4.81 per cent in 2010 and then increased to 4.94 per cent in 2016. This increase in the aging population indicates increasing longevity because of improving living standards.

In the older age group, the percentage of males was 5.15 against 4.74 for females, indicating greater male longevity compared to that of females. There exist urban-rural variations in the age distribution of the population in terms of years. In rural areas, the percentage of population in the 0–4 years age group is 9.93 per cent, marking a decline from 10.63 per cent in 2010. However, a rising trend is observed in urban areas, where it was 9.36 per cent in 2010, but climbed to 10.11 per cent in 2016.

The HIES report says this could be due to the inclusion of some areas with rural characteristics in urban areas and partly due to ineffective family planning services in urban slums.

In the highest age group (65 years and above), the proportion of population shows an increasing trend in rural areas, while a declining trend is observed in urban areas. In rural areas, the proportion was 5.16 per cent in 2010, but increased to 5.44 per cent in 2016. On the other hand, in urban areas, the proportion was 3.81 per cent in 2010 and declined to 3.61 per cent in 2016.

The demographic dependency ratio of population in 2016 was estimated at 59.21 with 62.34 for men and 56.23 for women at the national level. The demographic dependency ratio is the ratio of population of the 0–14 years age group plus 65 years and above to the population of the 15–64 year age group. In 2010, such ratios were 65.34, 69.21 and 61.70 respectively at the national level.

The findings show a remarkable decrease in the dependency ratio in 2016 compared to the 2010 figures.

In rural areas, the demographic dependency ratio is estimated at 62.66 for both sexes—66.63 for men and 58.93 for women—in HIES 2016, marking a sharp decline from 69.63 for both sexes—74.03 for male and 64.98 for female—in 2010. In urban areas, the demographic dependency ratio was 55.09 for both sexes—57.16 for male and 53.05 for female—in 2010, which reduced to 50.63 for both sexes—51.79 for male and 49.54 for female—in 2016, a commendable drop.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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