Population projected to reach only 883,866 persons by 2047

Lyonchhen (Dr) Lotay Tshering launched the report on Bhutan’s Population Projections (2017-2047) on Friday in the capital.

Chhime Tshering, the Director of National Statistical Bureau (NSB) said that population projection is the computation of future population based on current population size, assumptions on future trends in fertility, mortality, and migration, combined with past trends and experts.

He said, “It is one of the main statistical data that provides an estimate of future population, which is critical for planning and policy formulation. It can alert policymakers to major demographic trends and assist in coming up with policy interventions for sustained socio-economic growth.”

PHCB 2017 is the primary source of data; however, he said that they also have used other nationally representative household surveys to study the past demographic trends and to extrapolate the future demographic trajectories.

The report projected that the population of Bhutan will continue to grow but at a slower pace.

The population is projected to reach 883,866 persons by 2047, staying below the one million mark.

Bhutan has been experiencing steep fertility decline in the recent past and it is expected to remain below the replacement level of 2.1 (number of children per woman during her entire reproductive age) in the foreseeable future. Due to the declining fertility rates, the birth rate will decline substantially to 11 births per 1000 population and the annual growth rate will fall from 0.99 percent in 2017 to 0.27 percent in 2047, according to the report.

In addition, the mortality rate is expected to fall but due to the aging population, the crude death rate is going to maintain at around the same level as in 2017 with a marginal increase to about 8 deaths per 1000 population by 2047.

With the aging of the population, the age structure of the population is projected to change notably over time. The share of the population in the ages 0-14 years will fall considerably from 26 percent to 17 percent, and that of ages 65+ years will increase from 6 percent to 13 percent during the projection period.

The urbanization in Bhutan is happening at a moderate pace and by 2047- it is projected that more than half of the total population (56.8%) will reside in urban areas. The population growth is not expected to be uniform across all Dzongkhags.

Meanwhile, Lyonchhen Dr. Lotay Tshering said that this is not good news for Bhutan. He said, “Bhutan’s population in 2040 will touch 8 and a half lakhs, way below 1 mn. But what I fail to understand is that the growth rate now is 1.9 and it is expected to fall to 1.7. It scares me because we know that at least there should be 2.2 to 2.3 fertility rate in order to replace, but of course, it depends upon the mortality rate and health care services.”

“If we put the right formula in the right place, we can derive better revenue from demographic dividends, more than the hydropower,” Lyonchhen reassured.

The projection report also reveals that about 30 percent of the total population will reside in Thimphu Dzongkhag by 2047 and no other Dzongkhags will have a population more than 100,000 persons although some Dzongkhags could have a population exceeding 50,000 persons.

On the contrary, due to the sharp decline in the fertility rates, the number of babies born annually is going to decrease and subsequently, the population in the school going age would decline gradually calling for a policy shift in the education system.

Likewise, with aging population, the median age is projected to increase to 40 years by 2047 from 26.9 in 2017 (meaning half of the population in Bhutan is going to be above 40 years and the other half younger), which would mean increased Non-Communicable and degenerative diseases, giving more pressure on health and other social services.

The report was published by the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) with technical and financial assistance from the UNFPA. The report is prepared at two different levels: “National level” and “Sub-National (Dzongkhag) level”.

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