The constitutional provision of the right to social security and the people-centric sociopolitical commitment of the Government lead to formulation of the National Social Security Strategy (NSSS) of Bangladesh. The core of the NSSS is programme coordination among the implementing ministries and consolidation of programmes along a lifecycle framework with special focus on urban social protection.
Bangladesh has recently seen rapid process of urbanization, either by migration from rural areas or by newly turning some rural areas into townships. The rapid industrialization, transformation in pattern of economic activities and disaster induced hardship in rural areas have driven massive urbanization in Bangladesh.
The rapid rise in urban population is now a global phenomenon. The UN estimates that 57 per cent of the population of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) will be living in urban areas by 2025. Amongst these countries, Bangladesh experiences one of the highest rates of urbanization. The rate of urban population has recently reached to around 30 per cent 38.9% in 2021. Rapid urbanization has, therefore, serious implications for urban poverty trends and patterns. This rapid growth of urban population in Bangladesh has taken place during the last four decades.
In 1974 after the independence of Bangladesh urban population was only 6.27 million which grew over 64.81 million in 2020 and currently it is about 65 million. Likewise, the number of municipalities was increased to 329 in 2018, where this member was only 64 in 1974. The number of city corporation is also increased to 12. The contribution of cities and towns in the national GDP accounts for more than 60 percent. Lack of access to housing, basic utility services, education and health services are some of the problems suffered by urban poor. Their problem is further exacerbated by violence, physical and psycho-social insecurity weak social network, and low voice and power. Therefore, the Government appreciates the need to extend social protection coverage to the urban poor and vulnerable people.
Rapid urbanization has created both opportunities and challenges for the urban population as well as for the government of Bangladesh. On the positive side, there has been a boom in the informal sector of the economy and rural-urban migration has provided the manufacturing industries including RMGs with labour at competitive prices. While the desire for better livelihoods have attracted a large number of people to cities, large numbers of people also migrated to urban areas due to loss of assets from different forms of natural hazards. The victims of natural disasters migrate and other forms of man-made disasters move to cities and start living in slums equipped with no utility connections and social services. Statistics show that more than half of the population of this country will be living in cities by 2030. With a stagnant rate of reduction in urban poverty, a large number of urban poor may continue living in the slums unless proper social protection strategies are implemented.
Like other developing countries, slums in Bangladesh are not equipped with basic facilities such as proper housing, safe drinking water, sanitation, and healthcare. The requirement of the support from the government for the poor urban communities is noticeable from the fact that a lot of the households in the urban slums experience poverty and remain vulnerable to shocks that can threaten their wellbeing. As a large part of the urban poor are internal migrants who have migrated from rural areas to urban with limited resources at hand, the economic vulnerability they face is unparalleled. Having almost no productive assets like land and housing, and limited access to basic services like education, health, and other utility connections force the majority of slum dwellers into a vicious cycle of poverty which they mostly fail to come out of. Till date, the national social security activities have been aligned mainly to the needs of the rural poor rather than those of the urban poor. Though recent formulation of NSSS in 2015 by the Government anticipated expanding the coverage of Social Protection Programmes for the urban poor communities, little has changed in reality.
Unplanned city growth, illegal encroachments on public land, poor urban governance, and, lack of policy attention to the needs of the informal sector are some of the key factors exacerbating the problems of urban poverty in Bangladesh. Any effective strategy to address urban poverty is closely linked to an effective urbanization strategy. Policies and strategies for the urban poor should include several concerns like mitigating public health.