Bangladesh is moving towards facing the demographic challenges from the comparatively comfortable position of enjoying the demographic dividends.
At present, roughly 13 people of working age in the country are supporting one senior dependent; but, in 2040, six working age people will need to support one senior dependent.
Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF representative in Bangladesh, made the observations while addressing a webinar on Thursday.
International Chamber of Commerce, Bangladesh (ICC Bangladesh) and UNICEF jointly organised the webinar titled 'Demographic Dividend in Bangladesh: Role of Private Sector'. Mahbubur Rahman, president of ICC Bangladesh, moderated the programme attended by the country's senior business leaders.
In his keynote presentation, Tomoo Hozumi said in the year 2060, three working age people will have to support one senior dependent. But exactly one hundred years ago, in 1960, 20 people had to support one senior person.
"Increased investment in health and education is needed to address this type of demographic challenge. But in this case, Bangladesh is lagging behind," he said.
"According to a World Bank report, in Bangladesh, the share of out-of-pocket expenditure on healthcare was about 70% from 1995 to 2014, higher than other countries in the world," he added.
Calling on the government to increase investment in health and education, he said it is not a cost, but an investment for the sustainable development of the country.
At the webinar, business leaders mentioned the issue of low investment in health and education and emphasised to increase it.
In this case, they stressed on the role of government's policy support for the private sector to encourage further private investment in health and education.
In his keynote, Tomoo Hozumi highlighted the issue of demographic change. He said the duration of transition from an aging to an aged society in 17 countries shows that the process of population aging in Bangladesh is much faster than in other countries. Only in Singapore, this transition has been faster than in Bangladesh.
Citing government spending on the health sector from 1995 to 2014, he said that the rate of expenditure in the health sector has decreased in 2014, compared to 1995, in comparison to the GDP; whereas it is growing worldwide.
Syed Manzur Elahi, chairman of Apex Footware Limited said, "Primary education makes the base of a child, but in our country its quality is very poor.
Advising the government to develop the standard of primary and secondary education, he raised question over the government's role for the welfare of the people as a whole.
Stressing on proper use of the potentiality of children and youth, speakers at the webinar called upon the government and private sector to adopt long-term plans, taking advantage of the existing demographic dividend, to increase demand-based technical education and training. At the same time, they emphasised the government's policy support for private sector initiatives.
Jashim Uddin, president of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FBCCI), Faruque Hassan, president of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Rizwan Rahman, president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry, among others, also addressed the webinar.