More than three-fourth (77%) of the marriages that took place in the last two years had brides, who were under the age of 18, according to a study.
The rate is 26% higher than it was in 2018, when 51% child marriages took place. Besides, child marriages were found to be more prevalent in rural areas (81%) than in urban locations (70%).
These are the outcomes of research jointly conducted by BRAC, UN WOMEN Bangladesh and the Center on International Cooperation at New York University.
The study also revealed that around 77% of the returning migrants in Bangladesh were struggling to find a job between April and November last year because of Covid-19 pandemic. Among the migrant households with returnees, 61% had at least one member who lost a job or earning opportunity during the covid-19 pandemic.
The research looks into the changes in demographic, economic, and social environments in secondary towns, peri-urban (upazila), and rural areas brought on by the reverse migrations during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Apart from child marriage, around 77% of the returning migrants in Bangladesh were struggling to find a job between April and November last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Among the migrant households with returnees, 61% had at least one member who lost a job or earning opportunity during the covid-19 pandemic, revealed the study.
The findings of the research titled "Demographic and socio-economic changes induced by the Covid-19 pandemic: Challenges of new circumstances" was unveiled at a virtual policy dialogue on Saturday.
After dissemination of the survey findings, chief guest of the policy dialogue Dr Shamsul Alam, member (Senior Secretary) of General Economic Division at Bangladesh Planning Commission, said in his speech, "Forced migration created frustration among people, particularly for women. We have to think over how to create economic opportunities for them. We need a recovery plan -- budget is a kind of recovery plan."
A survey was conducted with 6,370 households during 10-25 December 2020 as part of the study that applied both quantitative and qualitative techniques. The survey considered April-November 2020 as a reference period. The study calls attention specifically to the impact of the Covid-19 on internal and international migration, including returnee migrants who were forced to return to their places of origin due to various circumstances during the pandemic.
One-fourth (25%) of returnee migrant households are concerned over repaying their outstanding migration loans, which amount to an average of Tk76,000 (around USD 900), and a maximum of Tk700,000 (around USD 8300), the study found. Around 44% reported that they could not find any income-generating work and some of them are managing expenses by withdrawing from savings or using rent from assets.
The surveyed households reported a 58% decrease in monthly remittances received on an average during the pandemic that is in stark contrast with the national reports of higher flow of remittances during this period. However, a plausible explanation lies in previous researches that suggest almost half of the remittances received by the households under normal circumstances are through unofficial channels (such as hundi houses, travelers carrying money, etc.), which were unavailable during the pandemic.
The returnee migrant families will put pressure on the existing limited resources, especially in education and health sectors. The study found that 4.57% amongst the returnee population were school-aged children (age 5 to 16 years). If these children cannot return to their previous schools after the schools reopen, the educational institutions in local host communities will be under pressure. Furthermore, 13.35% of returnees (both external and internal) are above 40 years of age, and 4.56% are above 50 years of age. They have a lesser chance of re-migration, which has significant implications for the health services, especially on the services related to non-communicable diseases.
The female returnee migrants, mostly internal migrants, have been subjected to heightened burden during the pandemic.