What is the poorest city in Bangladesh

Country Profiles Migration: Data - History - Politics

Benjamin Etzold

Dr. Benjamin Etzold is a research associate at the Geographical Institute of the University of Bonn. He did his doctorate on street trade in the megacity of Dhaka and was involved in a research project on climate change, hunger and migration in Bangladesh. His main research interests include geographic migration and development research with a focus on social vulnerability and working conditions. Email: [email protected]

Mobility shapes the everyday life of many people in Bangladesh. It is one of the strategies for securing a living. Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis go to work abroad every year, but internal migration has also increased significantly in recent years. The growth in the clothing industry in particular contributed to this.

Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is a megacity of contrasts. The city's largest slum (Karail) is located directly across from the Gulshan business and diplomatic district. (& copy Benjamin Etzold)
In 2015, there were 161 million people in Bangladesh. Two thirds of the population live in rural regions; one third in urban areas (see Table 6). Due to persistent poverty and food insecurity in some parts of the country, regular, existence-threatening natural disasters such as cyclones and floods, better economic opportunities in the cities, centralized educational structures and improved transport networks, an increasing number of Bangladeshis are mobile within the country. The 2011 census found that 13.5 million people no longer lived in the county they were born in, which is 10 percent of the population. The vast majority of these movements take place within the country. 44 percent of these 13.5 million internal migrants moved from the countryside to the city, a further 43 percent from one rural region to another rural region, nine percent from one city to another city and only four percent from the city to the countryside [1] . Internal migration shapes everyday life in Bangladesh. Nevertheless, nine out of ten people in Bangladesh have not (yet) been mobile.

There are over 4,200 textile factories in Bangladesh. Most of them are located in the capital Dhaka. (& copy Benjamin Etzold)

The growth of the clothing industry has contributed to the increase in internal migration in Bangladesh. The production and export of textiles began in the 1980s and has since fundamentally changed Bangladesh's role in the global economy. While around 120,000 people were employed in 380 textile factories in 1985, in 2000 there were already 1.6 million workers in 3,200 factories and in 2014 even 4 million workers who were employed in 4,200 textile factories [2]. The boom in this branch of industry also led to social changes, as young women from rural areas who had not migrated in large numbers until then could now earn their own livelihood by working in factories in Bangladesh's cities [3]. The clothing factories are mainly located in and in the immediate vicinity of the state capital, which has contributed significantly to the growth of both the economy and the population of the megacity Dhaka (see Table 6). Other large cities could not keep up with the massive population growth of Dhaka. Chittagong, for example, once the most important port city in Bangladesh, has not only lost economic importance; their share of the country's urban population has also decreased significantly.

There are many reasons for an increase in internal migration within Bangladesh: People are mobile in order to earn the extra money they need to meet their families' daily needs. By taking up work elsewhere, they try to overcome existential crises such as hunger in the time before the rice harvest ("Monga"), to better spread risks and to cushion shocks such as crop failures. And with better education or a better job in the city, people are investing in their own future. Different migration systems therefore exist side by side: permanent rural-urban and urban-urban migration, temporary migration to the cities of the country and seasonal work migrations to agricultural regions. Access to migration opportunities and choice of destination reflect patterns of social inequality: Members from affluent households move to urban areas for secure jobs in formal economic sectors or to study at university. The rural "middle class" and "lower class" either move to Dhaka to work in the clothing industry, construction or informal economic sectors, or move temporarily to other rural regions to work as harvest workers. The poorest people in Bangladesh often cannot afford the initial investments required to migrate. In addition, they do not have access to the relevant networks and in some cases they are not even in the physical condition to move within the country. Because of their regional ties, they remain "trapped" in poverty [4].

Clothing produced in Bangladesh is shipped all over the world in containers (in the background), but 20 percent of Dhaka's residents live in great poverty. Homeless people also sleep on the roof of the city's main train station. (& copy Benjamin Etzold)
Bangladeshi families that have migrants among their members now organize their livelihoods dynamically across different locations. Her life is characterized by her migration experience, her social networks, which stretch between different places, and her "simultaneous involvement" in these different places. They live in "translocal social spaces". Those who have migrated to other countries have even built a transnational life [5]. The translocal or transnational relationships between migrants and those who left them at home are carefully maintained through money transfers, regular phone or Skype calls, and Facebook and other social media. The home village is regularly visited, especially for traditional festivals that play an important cultural role in community and family life, such as weddings, funerals or the festival of the breaking of the fast (Eid-ul-Fitr) at the end of Ramadan [6].

This text is part of the country profile for Bangladesh.