15m Bangladeshis slipped below poverty line due to pandemic, study finds

They currently make up almost half of the poor in Bangladesh

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 17 May 2023, 11:17 AM
Updated : 17 May 2023, 11:17 AM

Another 15 million people have slipped below the poverty line after losing their jobs and businesses during the COVID pandemic, a study by a government think-tank has found.

They account for almost half of the poor in the country now, according to a study carried out by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.

Bangladesh’s poverty rate stands at 18.7 percent, according to the latest census of the statistical agency. The total population stands at about 170 million.

Binayak Sen, the director general of BIDS, said about 9 percent of the total population, who had previously graduated to the lower middle class, were now poor again.

BIDS revealed its findings during the launch of a two-day Research Almanac 2023 programme on Wednesday.

Binayak suggested the government help the new group of poor people rise above the poverty line once again, and called for a special programme to bring primary school dropouts back to classrooms.

The study found that 23.5 percent of people lived in extreme poverty. These people discontinued the children's education during the pandemic, Binayak said.

He added that the urban poor were subject to more harm in terms of education and the development of human capital essential for economic growth.

Binayak pointed out that the ‘proper implementation’ of social safety net-related programmes contributes to reducing poverty.


Binayak criticised a study that suggested the poverty rate in the country had soared to 42 percent during the pandemic, saying it was a blunder caused by hurried research.

He said some development organisations said that poverty had doubled based on their work in 2020.

In January 2021, researchers of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling, or SANEM, claimed that the poverty rate had climbed to 42 percent based on a survey carried out across 5,577 families around the country in November-December 2020.

“The fact of the matter is even if the rate rose then, it was temporary and for that time only. This happened in April-June 2020 and began falling after June.”

“The economy then regained its usual pace at the start of 2022 after we overcame omicron, delta variants of COVID.”

Binayak said the overall poverty rate fell by 4.3 percentage points between 2019 and 2022. The number of families struggling in extreme poverty also dropped by 3.2 percentage points in this period.

The BIDS study found that many people engaged in self-employment after the pandemic hit the country.

“Those who were struggling financially and saved up for tough times were able to do this. Both government and non-government organisations moved to help create employment on their own. Information technology and agricultural expansion technology were useful in these cases.”

Planning Minister MA Mannan, who was the chief guest at the programme, said the latest BBS census showed that poverty reduction was headed in ‘the right direction’.

“Inequality is a core problem for every developing nation. I think inequality is created by us. So we have to create new resources and bridge the gap by fairly distributing it in the social safety sector.”