Poverty ReductionThe national headcount poverty ratio fell progressively from over 50% in 1991 to 31.5% in 2010. According to the Seventh Five-Year Plan, Bangladesh looks to cut poverty in half to 15% by 2020. Photo: UNDP Bangladesh.

The UNDP embarked on its journey in Bangladesh on July 31, 1972. Focusing on local ownership, capacity development, income and employment generation, and social protection, the UNDP engages with various governmental agencies and partners to work towards economic and social development in Bangladesh.

High Achievements in Human Development

Since independence in 1971, Bangladesh has performed well above initial expectations in terms of poverty reduction. It has increased its per capita income many times over, cut the poverty rate over successive years (from close to 60 percent in 1990 to 31.5 in 2010) and is now well positioned to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in the area of poverty reduction, due in part to a GDP growth rate of 6 per cent in recent years. Improvements in social indicators such as increased life expectancy and lower fertility rate have corresponded with economic growth, despite having one of the world’s highest population densities.

SDGs in Bangladesh: Bridging the Gaps

While human development indicators have significantly improved in Bangladesh, social and income disparities remain a challenge. Persistent pockets of extreme poverty in urban slums, the Hill Tracts, coastal belt, Chars and other environmentally vulnerable areas are not fully reflected in national-level data. The poor are often structurally disadvantaged in terms of ownership of assets, and have inadequate access to institutional finance as well as basic services including quality education, healthcare, water and sanitation.

From 2017 to 2021, the UN Development Assistance Framework for Bangladesh has prioritized prosperity, meaning to increase opportunities, especially for women and disadvantaged groups, to contribute to and benefit from economic progress. This focus is in line with Bangladesh’s Vision 2021, the Seventh Five-Year Plan, and the SDGs.

Poverty Reduction in an Urban Age

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. About one third of Bangladesh’s population lives in urban areas, and according to the national poverty survey, 21.3% of the urban population are either poor or extreme poor. The urban poor, especially women and children, often suffer from malnutrition resulting in stunted growth, weakening of the immune system, mental impairment and, in some cases, early death. Moreover, poverty of this nature has a lock-in quality, guaranteeing intergenerational transfers of disadvantage.

Along with the Government of Bangladesh, UN-HABITAT and local communities, UNDP created the National Urban Poverty Reduction Programme (NUPRP) to build from the successes of the Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction Programme. The project supports programs of settlement improvement and socio-economic development in 30 towns and cities, as well as community and local government capacity building and policy advocacy.

Major Challenges in Bangladesh

The challenges that the people of Bangladesh face are numerous, making it necessary for the government and resident agencies to plan comprehensive programs to sustain the progress made thus far. The UN Development Assistance Framework 2017-2021 is anchored around the government’s national priorities, and identifies the reduction of socio-economic inequalities as the main driver of positive change.

Bangladesh also faces a major hunger and malnutrition challenge. In line with global experience, the once strong relationship between these variables and poverty appears to be breaking down. Indeed, while poverty has declined markedly, a large proportion of the population is unable to meet their recommended daily calorie intake and many children are underweight due to hidden hunger of micronutrient deficiencies.

The gains that have been made to date can't be sustained without addressing the substantial challenges of achieving gender parity, ensuring productive employment, mitigating the effects of climate change and improving labour rights.  Bangladesh remains a low income country and part of the world's least developed countries, making poverty reduction, income generation and social inclusion a central priority towards 2021 and beyond.

Bangladesh at a Glance

  • GDP of US $ 111,749,000,000 [MDG Progress 2012]
  • Population of 158.5 million [HDR 2015]
  • 43.3% of the population live on less than $1 per day [MDG Progress 2012]
  • 31.5% of the population lives below the national poverty line (2,122kcal) [MDG Progress 2012]
  • 29.9% of the population live in urban areas [HDR 2015]
  • Ranks 142 out of 188 on the 2015 Human Development Index [HDR 2015]