More than 6.51 crore people, about 36.1% of the total population, in Bangladesh are facing multidimensional poverty, said a report awaiting publication.
According to the report, the rate is 11.5 percentage points higher than 24.6% multidimensionally poor people identified by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) released last year. An additional 1.93 crore people fell below the multidimensional poverty line in the last one year.
The General Economic Division (GED) of the Planning Commission and the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) prepared the report under the project "Strengthening the Social Policies for Children in a Middle Income Economy," with support from the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef) and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Institute (OPHI).
The economists expressed their concern over the rising trend of multidimensional poverty. They said the trend would hamper the process of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Eighth Five Year Plan, the Perspective plan, and other development agenda declared globally and nationally.
The report highlighting issues related to children revealed that 57% of the households with a child aged below 17 years have been facing multidimensional poverty and the rate is 21 percentage points higher compared to overall households.
According to the report, rural areas have remained the main centres of multidimensional poverty, but new poverty pockets centring Sylhet, Chattogram, and Barishal divisions have been identified.
The report revealed that about 23% of people living in the urban areas are facing poverty, while the rate is 40% in the rural areas, where more than 86% of the multidimensional poor are living.
The poverty rate reduced to 20.5% in FY19, according to the BBS, which has not published any further report on it. The independent researchers are saying more than three crore additional people have fallen below the poverty line due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The number of multidimensional poor mentioned in the latest report is 2.66 crore higher than the previous data of the BBS.
Planning minister MA Mannan told The Business Standard that there is a debate about the number of poor people in the country. "The devastating impacts of Covid-19 pushed significant pressure to increase the poverty rate," the minister said.
He also said the government would take a significant number of initiatives to ensure health and education related services by increasing the allocation for the social safety net programmes on charts to reduce multidimensional poverty.
Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, a distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), told TBS that the method of determining multidimensional poverty is more accurate than the income based poverty to measure the incidence of poverty.
"The rate of the multidimensional poverty indicates other forms of vulnerabilities beyond income, like assets, consumption, energy intake, dwelling structure. So, it remains higher than the income based poverty," he continued.
"It (the report) is again confirming that we are facing a non-inclusive growth. Whatever growth we are having, the benefits have been distributed very unevenly," he added.
The MPI has been prepared through 11 socio-economic indicators with equal emphasis on quality of life, education and health. In addition to these 11 indicators, four more indicators related to the children's rights have been used to create the C-MPI.
The value of MPI or C-MPI (Child Multidimensional Poverty Index) formulated through different indicators can range from zero to one. The closer the value of this index is to zero, the lower the multidimensional poverty will be. And if its value is close to one, multidimensional poverty will be more.
The MPI stood at 0.168 points at the national level, 0.185 points in the rural areas and 0.106 points in the urban areas, according to the report.
New poverty pockets in Sylhet, Chattogram, Barishal
According to the report awaiting release, the highest 50.7% households in Sylhet division suffer from multidimensional poverty. Chattogram and Barishal divisions were also identified as new pockets of poverty.
The new report has identified Sylhet, Chattogram and Barishal divisions as the new pockets containing multidimensionally poor people.
Bandarban district of Chattogram tops the list with the highest multidimensional poverty rate of 75%. In Bhola of Barishal division, which is in the second position, the multidimensional poverty rate is 62%. Sunamganj in Sylhet division is in the third position with 81% multidimensional poverty.
Rangamati (57%), Cox's Bazar (57%), Habiganj (55%), Kurigram (54%), Netrokona (52%) and Khagrachhari (51%) are among the districts at the top of the list of districts with multidimensional poverty.
Households with children are poorer
In households with children, the C-MPI stood at 0.226 points, which is much higher than the national MPI of 0.168.
Similarly, the average rate of multidimensional poverty in households with children is 57%, which is 21 percentage points higher than the national average.
The C-MPI in a female-led household with children is 0.199 points, which is much lower than the 0.228 point in a male-dominated household.
The report said young children are the most vulnerable to poverty. It said the C-MPI for children aged zero to five was 0.285 points, and 68.7% of households with children this age live in poverty.
The C-MPI is 0.285 points in families with 16-17 year-old-children. The poverty rate in such families is 45.6% percent.
The children in Sylhet division are the most affected by poverty. There, 66.4% of the children aged 0-5 years are victims of poverty.