Demography

The population of Bangladesh is 161 million and it is the 8th most populous nation in the world. In 1951, the population was 44 million. It is also one of the most densely populated large country in the world and it ranks 12th in population density, when very small countries and city-states are included. A striking contrast is offered by Russia which has a slightly smaller population spread over a land area that is 120 times larger than Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s population growth was among the highest in the world in the 1960s and the 1970s, when the country swelled from 50 to 90 million. With the promotion of birth control, the growth rate has slowed. The population is relatively young, with 65% being 35 or younger. Life expectancy is 71.6 years.

The overwhelming majority of Bangladeshis are ethnic Bengalis, comprising 98% of the population. The remainder are mostly tribal groups.  The tribal people are concentrated in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in the southeast. There are 13 tribal groups located in this region, the largest being the Chakma. Outside the Hill Tracts, the largest tribal groups are the Santhals and Garos (Achiks), while smaller groups include the Kaibartta, Meitei, Mundas, Oraons, and Zomi.

Nearly all Bangladeshis speak Bangla as their mother tongue and it is the official language. It is an Indo-Aryan language of Sanskrit origin with its own script. English is used as a second language among the middle and upper classes. English is also widely used in higher education and the legal system. Historically, laws were written in English and translated into Bengali until 1987 when the procedure was reversed.