Bangladesh is again strong when it comes to women’s purchasing power, significantly outperforming Pakistan and standing marginally ahead of India
It is now 70 years since British colonial rule in India was ended with the country’s partitioning into three successor nations we know today as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The United Nations considers these states to be at levels of “medium human development”, while collectively the economies of South Asia are termed “powerhouses of Asian economic growth”.
And yet in each country, and in Bangladesh particularly, most people still live below the poverty line and work irregular, unstable jobs with little to no security.
So how much progress has really been made since partition?
Examining how each country has fared since 1947 can serve as a corrective to the chest-thumping that is often so far removed from the reality.
Eight charts compare Bangladesh to India and Pakistan. Data for China has also been included, so as to illustrate what might have been had Bangladesh taken a different direction after 1971.
Bangladesh has made unquestionable progress since 1947, even more so since independence from Pakistan was achieved in 1971. Indeed, what the data shows is that Bangladesh seems to have, in large part, shrugged off the economic legacy of its 24 years as a structurally disadvantaged East Pakistan.
Yet, while it often performs more strongly than India and Pakistan, in absolute terms the figures that Bangladesh posts are still poor by global standards. Indeed, China, which was in 1950 even poorer than East Pakistan, outperforms Bangladesh in seven of the eight indicators. This is something that must be rectified.
Bangladesh lags behind in GDP per capita
In 1950, East Pakistan lagged marginally behind West Pakistan and India in per capita income. In 2010, despite doubling its per capita income from $540 to $1,276 in the intervening 60 years, an independent Bangladesh had fallen further behind in relative terms. Pakistan, which had only been $103 better off, was now $1,218 richer in per capita terms, while India’s growth was even more impressive, swelling from $619 in 1950 to $3,372 in 2010.
Bangladeshis live the longest
India and Pakistan’s superior economic performance, however, has surprisingly not led to better life expectancy. The average Bangladeshi can expect to live to 72, while Pakistanis and Indians can expect to live to 66 and 68, respectively.
India more unequal than Bangladesh
Bangladesh’s relatively higher life expectancy could be explained by its better performance in inequality rates. The Gini coefficient of disposable income, a measure of inequality, sees Bangladesh lodged between India and Pakistan. Nonetheless, in Bangladesh, where the economic pie is smaller, its effects are more pronounced than in either India or Pakistan.
Bangladeshi women have highest average incomes
Bangladesh is again strong when it comes to women’s purchasing power, significantly outperforming Pakistan and standing marginally ahead of India. This is likely because of Bangladesh’s garments industry, which is driven by a mainly female workforce.
Bangladeshi poverty rates similar to those of India
Bangladesh, despite performing marginally better than India, nonetheless performs weakly when it comes to the percentage of its population living in poverty. Bangladesh and India’s poverty rates, of 56.8% and 58%, are far worse than the Pakistan rate of 36.9%.
Lowest rates of child hunger are in Bangladesh
Among the three South Asian states, Bangladesh performs best in rates of child hunger. Indeed, measured as the percentage of children under five receiving adequate nutrition, it scores 36.1%, far better than Pakistan and marginally more than India.
Bangladesh takes better care of children
Bangladesh not only performs better in child hunger statistics, but posts the lowest under five mortality rates. Almost a quarter better than India and more than 50% better than Pakistan’s, Bangladesh’s 37.6/1000 is, in relative terms, impressive.
Bangladesh posts highest percentage of stable jobs
Bangladesh also posted the highest percentage of stable jobs, at 57.8%. In contrast, India posted over 80% in what the UN defines as ‘vulnerable employment’, which is defined as “percentage of employed people engaged as unpaid family workers and own account workers”.
A version of this story was first published in the Mint