In 2000, A.I. Mahbub Uddin Ahmed, Professor of Sociology at the University of Dhaka, undertook a study of lack of perceived necessities in Bangladesh. The data for the study came from a sample survey of 1,914 respondents, comprising 1,207 males and 707 females from all over Bangladesh. The study was designed to be in urban areas and only 78 of the sample were from outside the main cities of Barisal (10.4 per cent of sample), Dhaka (52.2 per cent), Chittagong (15.7 per cent), Khulna (7.8 per cent), Rajshahi (10.4 per cent) and Sylhet (3.3 per cent).

A list of 69 deprivation indicators indicative of the style of living of the Bangladeshi population was made covering diet, clothing, fuel and light, home amenities, housing and housing facilities and childcare. Respondents were asked to indicate which of the items they considered important, without which they would feel socially deprived and poor. The survey found that 17 items out of the 69 items tested were considered by more than 50 per cent of respondents as necessities, their absence being seen as constituting poverty. The table below shows the full list of items considered by respondents to be necessities, without which one is perceived to be poor. The 52 items that were not seen as necessities included items such as wrist watch, wardrobe, ornaments, bicycle and toys for children, refrigerator, cigarettes, music lesson, telephone, cable TV and computer.

Items considered to be necessities in urban areas of Bangladesh, 2000

Rank Items Yes (%)
1 Three meals a day for children 91.1
2 Two meals a day for adults 85.7
3 Having quilt for every member of the household 79.1
4 Milk for babies 78.0
5 Celebration of religious festivals 77.5
6 Have pillow for every member of the household 76.1
7 One pair of all-weather shoes 73.0
8 Having charger or hurricane lamp 69.9
9 Regular monthly savings 69.2
10 A fan for home 63.7
11 Warm clothes and blankets 62.7
12 Fresh fruits or vegetables every day 60.2
13 Separate bed for every children 10+ 56.9
14 Having an umbrella 56.4
15 Having a radio or TV with cable connection 54.9
16 Meat or fish or vegetables equivalent every other day 52.9
17 Best outfit for special occasions 52.1

Source: A.I. Mahbub Uddin Ahmed (2007) Consensual poverty in Britain, Sweden and Bangladesh: a comparative study (pdf).

Mahbub Uddin Ahmed comments in the paper:

Such a perception is culturally derived as the social norm of particular time and space determines the notion of deprivation. A decade ago, it was impossible to think that the absence of a cable TV or mobile phone would constitute an agenda for poverty definition of Bangladesh. Even now, it may appear shocking to many. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that a status item like celebration of religious festivals is ranked fifth in the deprivation index. The Table clearly demonstrates the change that has taken place in the standard of Bangladesh urban life.

For full details see:

Consensual poverty in Britain, Sweden and Bangladesh: a comparative study’ (pdf), A.I. Mahbub Uddin Ahmed, Bangladesh e-Journal of Sociology, vol. 4, no. 2., 2007

In this paper A.I. Mahbub Uddin Ahmed, Professor of Sociology at the University of Dhaka, compares the findings of his research in Bangladesh with earlier work on poverty in Britain and Sweden using the consensual method.

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