Bangladesh's population has grown to 16.5 crore as per the recent census carried out by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) even with Sylhet and northern districts under water.
According to the preliminary findings of the BBS, women outnumber men in the country – the number of women now stands at 8.33 crore compared to 8.17 crore men. The population of the third gender is 12,629, while the gender of 85,957 people could not be detected.
The latest findings were released at a press conference at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre on Wednesday.
Over the last 11 years, the number of people has increased by 14.44% from 14.4 crore enumerated in the census conducted in 2011.
The annual population growth is now 1.22% on average, said Dilder Hossain, deputy secretary at the Statistics and Informatics Division, while disclosing the findings at the press conference.
However, experts cast doubt on the quality of the findings from the recent census as the number of population enumerated is lower than what the BBS earlier assumed.
According to Bangladesh Sample Vital Statistics, a BBS survey, the country's population stood at 16.82 crore in 2020. Besides, the number of people shown in the GDP growth report of the last fiscal year was 17.08 crore.
The experts have recommended conducting a post enumeration check to verify the credibility of the findings from the census.
Dr Mohammad Mainul Islam, professor at Department of Population Sciences in Dhaka University, told The Business Standard that now, it remains to be seen exactly what percentage of people have been left out of the census.
The enumeration activities have been hampered this time owing to rains and flooding, which has also been reflected in the rate of population growth in Sylhet division, he added.
Dr Zahid Hussain, former lead economist at the World Bank's Dhaka office, said, "The BBS enumerators did not go to many houses to collect data. None came to my house as well."
But, the 1.22% annual population growth rate shown in the census is somewhat reasonable, he noted.
Earlier, the BBS in its fifth census conducted in March 2011 counted 14.23 crore people in the country. Later, further enumeration by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies found the country's population at 14.98 crore, meaning that around 5% of people had been left out of the BBS census at that time.
State Minister for Planning Shamsul Alam at the press briefing said this time there will not be many mistakes because the census was carried out by using digital devices.
In the post enumeration check, the population may increase by 2%, he also said, adding that in that case, the number of people in the country will stand at 16.85 crore.
The census and house enumeration activities began simultaneously across the country on 15 June and continued until 28 of the month. The census scheduled in 2021 had been delayed for one year because of the pandemic impacts along with complexities in procuring tabs for use in the census.
Heavy rainfall impacted the census the day after it began. Most parts of Sylhet division were flooded. That is why the enumerators were given an additional seven days to collect data in all those districts.
A review of the census findings showed that in the 2001 census, the population grew at an annual rate of 1.58% across the country, but in Sylhet division it grew at a rate of 1.6%. And in 2011, the annual population growth rate in the division was the highest in the country at 2.1%.
Due to lack of proper data collection in the latest census, the population growth in the division has dropped to 0.96%, according to the people concerned.
But officials at BBS and Statistics and Informatics Division claimed that the actual number of people in the country has been found in the census, which was conducted digitally for the first time using nearly four lakh tabs.
They also said the previous reports on population data were based on perception.
Dildar Hossain said in the country's first population census conducted in 1974, the population was 7.14 crore, which has more than doubled in a span of 50 years.
According to the latest census, Dhaka division has the highest population of 4.4 crore and Barisal division has the lowest 91 lakh.
According to the census, more people still live in villages than in cities. But the rural population has only grown by about 26 lakh in the past decade, while the urban population has increased by nearly 1.85 crore.
Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury said gone are the days when population data was based on assumption.
Planning Minister MA Mannan said the number of floating people in the country is less, meaning that the number of poor people is decreasing.