Bangladesh's working-age population was increasing almost 1.5 million per year in the 1980s. This rate of population growth kept the people poor and the country dependent on foreign aid. Population control and family planning, therefore, were a top priority of the government and social workers.
In the mid-1980s, there were indications that government and nongovernment agency efforts were beginning to pay off. Population growth had declined from 3 percent to 2.3 percent between 1961 and 1981. Contraceptive practices increased from 12.7 percent of eligible couples in 1979 to 25 percent in mid-1985. Of the methods available, sterilization was the most commonly sought in government plans through fiscal year 1990. A continuous demographic survey also showed a decline in fertility rates and an increase in the female marriage age. But undercutting this progress was the uneven application of the family planning program in rural areas, which constituted the most populous sections of the nation.
In 1985 there were reported only 3,716 family planning facilities in the country and a total of 15,619 family planning personnel, of whom 4,086 were male in a country where the females were traditionally reserved when discussing sexual matters with men. Even when they were physicians, men were reluctant to discuss sexual matters with women. From 1980 to 1985, only about 55 percent of national family planning goals were achieved.
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