Poverty is a major issue in today's world and it remains one of the biggest challenges for humankind to overcome. A third world country, such as Bangladesh, is defined as an underdeveloped nation that faces challenges in growth (either economic, agricultural, social, etc.). Bangladesh, a country with a population of 164 million, is one of the poorest countries in the world with a high poverty rate of 40% and a literacy rate of just 51%. Poverty in Bangladesh exacerbates the problem of the large social divide between the rich and the poor. Some of the causes for poverty in Bangladesh are unemployment, income distribution, natural disasters, and the lack of education -- among others. The poverty rate in Bangladesh has contributed to several issues such as child labor, high crime rates, as well as the gaping social divide. This paper will examine the issues associated with poverty in Bangladesh including the lack of education in Bangladesh, the vulnerable landscape, the great social divide between the rich and the poor, and the issues related to crime and child labor.
Bangladesh is considered one of the world's poorest countries, ranking third after India and China (Rural Poverty Portal 2011). Since its independence from Pakistan in 1971, Bangladesh has been striving to reduce its poverty (Ali & Talukder 2010).
In 1971 [it] was a very poor country. The general people had a hope and dream that the political parties will develop the country and will eradicate poverty gradually, will provide jobs to the 50% unemployed people, will educate the 60% illiterate people; but their holy hope and dream have not been fulfilled due to frequent hostile political culture, beating, killing among the political party members, no patriotism among the political leaders, massive corruption, unnecessary frequent strike, unnecessary opposition to the government policy, etc. (Jalil & Rahman 2011)
Bangladesh has been labeled a "chronically poor country" (Sen & Hulme 2004) and the consumption of 1,805kcal per capita per day is variously termed as "extreme poor," "hardcore poor," or "ultra-poor" (Ahmed 2009). In 1974 it shared with Rwanda the lowest position in the world according to per capita income, signaling "little promise for active agency in terms of coping, recovery, renewal, mobility and escape" (2004).
The hardcore poor are characterized by their inability to take part fully in social and economic activities and in decision-making that has an impact on their daily lives (2009). Ahmed notes that "this social exclusion denies them the consumption of essential goods and services, such as healthcare, that are available to other segments of the population (2009). These extremely poor households do not have many -- if any -- assets, are incredibly vulnerable to any type of shock such as natural disasters or disability, and most of them depend on wage-labor for survival (2009).
The population of Bangladesh is chiefly rural, with approximately 75% of its population living in rural areas, where the majority is poor. Though some of these people migrate to urban areas to look for jobs or other sources of income, the efforts often prove fruitless for them as it is just as hard to make money in the urban areas as it is in the rural ones. Because of this, many of these people going to the cities to look for ways to make money often fall victim to the lure of criminal activities as a way to make money. The crime rate in Bangladesh has always been on the high side due to the frequency of robberies, thefts, and even murder occurring on a near daily basis.
Another major problem stemming from poverty in Bangladesh is child labor. Child labor, whether in urban or rural areas, is very common. Bangladeshi children are often forced from a very young age to work either in support of their family or for their own survival. In rural areas, Bangladeshi parents often encourage their children to work so they can make money rather than go to school to receive an education. Because many families cannot afford to have their children in school, child labor continues in the country. One problem arising from this fact is that these children will grow up to be uneducated adults, which contributes to the problem of poverty. Many children in Bangladesh lack proper education, clothes, and shelter. Because of this, the death rate amongst children is quite high.
Hosen (2010) states that the concepts of child labor and child education are "inversely linked with each other in terms of execution. Child labor does not allow child education and vice versa." Child labor is a burden to an economy. "Economy never accepts child labor and the high volume of child labor creates liability on economy" (2010). In Bangladesh in 2003, nearly 4.7 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 years were working in child labor (that was 13.4% of the labor force population) (2010). However, the number of informal activities of children working is higher than the figure just states (2010). When compared with South Asia, Hosen notes that the labor force participation is higher than the rest of the nations. Because of this, policy makers need to work to improve education of children and reduce the number of children working for money as well as those who are working for no money at all.
The gap between the rich and poor in Bangladesh is quite significant. Lack of accessibility to proper education and health in rural areas is one of the causes for this wide gap. The uneven income distribution also plays a part in keeping the rich and poor in their respective positions. In looking at this inequality, globalization's impact on Bangladesh is often examined. In the 1990s, Bangladesh moved decisively to embrace the wave of globalization (Osmani 2005). Compared to the 1980s, the 1990s saw a faster reduction of poverty; however, a widening of income inequality was occurring at the same time (2005). In many cases, the rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer. There is a lack of government support when it comes to this social divide. In order to alleviate poverty in Bangladesh, there is the need for the government to address many different issues in the country. Osmani argues that globalization can further help to reduce poverty but it will depend on the internal political economy of resource mobilization and public expenditure rather than on the forces of globalization (2005).
For the most part, the livelihood of the people living in these rural areas depends predominantly on the land, which is quite fertile, but it is also quite vulnerable because of the fact that the country is made up of flood plain. The alluvial soil offers quite arable land, which is good for crops, however, big areas of land are at risk because of the frequency of floods and cyclones. These natural disasters destroy the crops and also take the lives of both livestock and people (Rural Poverty Portal 2011).
In the 1990s, Bangladesh made some very significant progress in alleviating poverty, achieving a 1% drop in the number of people living below the poverty line every single year. Moreover, Sen and Hulme (2004) state that Bangladesh has been able to see some stability in terms of democratic progress and reasonable economic growth. The authors attest that there was also "appreciable change in social indicators such as fertility, child mortality and malnutrition as well as rapid expansion of basic education, especially girl's education." Standard measures of income-poverty also began to show significant decline (2004). It is estimated that poverty rates are at about 53% and 43.6% (Rural Poverty Portal 2011). While most of the alleviation of poverty has been in rural areas as opposed to urban ones, the rural areas of Bangladesh are still a long way behind the urban areas when it comes to development. Sen and Hulme (2004) note that while development has provided opportunities for some to grow out of poverty and make some sound progress, development has also led to exclusion for others "as they slip deeper into poverty or continue to persist at the margin as outcasts without the power to claim, protest or even speak of their maladies."
For the rural population in Bangladesh, approximately 20% of those households are living in extreme poverty. For these people who are considered "chronically poor" (Rural Poverty Portal 2011), they are constantly faced with the problem of where they will get their next meal. They generally do not own any cultivable land or assets. They are often illiterate as well as suffer from serious illnesses and/or disabilities (2011). Even for those who own a bit of land and have some livestock, they may be getting enough to eat, but their diets are generally lacking protein and other types of nutritional elements that they need in order to be healthy. Because of this fact, the rural population faces the risk of going further and further into poverty because of health problems and natural disasters (2011). Illness…