Life expectancy of
Ecological footprint of
One of the world’s most densely populated countries, and located in South Asia, Bangladesh is biologically rich, fertile and dominated by lush vegetation. Its GDP per head is extremely low – comparable to that of many Sub-Saharan African countries. However, a major surge in exports from the textile industry has contributed to economic development in Bangladesh in recent years.
Bangladesh has the second smallest Ecological Footprint in the world – bringing it in at eighth place in the Happy Planet Index. Bangladesh’s wellbeing and life expectancy scores are fairly low, yet they are significantly higher than those of countries with similar levels of GDP per capita. In fact, life expectancy in Bangladesh is almost 20 years higher than in Zimbabwe – despite having a similar GDP per capita. This is a country that’s achieving a lot with limited resources.
What’s working well in Bangladesh?
Bangladesh’s Ecological Footprint is extremely small, and the smallest in the top ten by a long way. What Bangladesh manages to achieve with this very low environmental impact is remarkable. Despite having almost equally-sized footprints, Bangladesh’s life expectancy is 15 years higher than Burundi’s, and its wellbeing is higher by 1.3 points. Bangladesh’s small footprint also reflects important shifts in its economy – in 2014, Bangladesh was in the top 10 countries worldwide employing people in the renewable energy sector, a necessary effort given the country’s particular vulnerability to climate change.
Bangladesh has also made substantial progress over the past 25 years in terms of human development. The government set up the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education in 1992 with the goal of universalising primary education and eliminating gender and poverty gaps in primary education. Since then, the average years spent in school have increased from five and a half years in 1990 to ten years in 2014.
What’s not working?
Although the number of people living on less than $2 a day in Bangladesh has fallen rapidly in recent years, poverty remains widespread, affecting a quarter of the population, and malnutrition in Bangladesh is among the worst in the world. Government spending on healthcare is also extremely low, at just 2.8% of GDP in 2014. These features are undoubtedly factors in Bangladesh’s fairly low life expectancy and wellbeing scores.
Photo credit: CC Ashraf Siddiqui 76