Urbanization is the most potent and comprehensive socio-economic phenomenon of our time. Throughout history, more people have lived in urban areas than outside. Today, about half of the world’s population lives outside rural areas in cities and urban settlements.
Urbanization is the process of people moving to urban areas (regions around a city). There are many reasons for this urban migration, such as jobs, education, and well-being. Urbanization is a global phenomenon triggered by population growth and economic development.
Rapid urbanization is one of the most important global trends shaping the 21st century (e.g., the Industrial Revolution). The fast pace of urbanization has been enabled by globalization, technology, and demographic change. The world is witnessing a new wave of migration from rural to urban areas.
Urbanization Trends in Developing Countries Are Driven by Several Factors, Including:
- Push factors: rapid growth in rural areas has led many people to migrate to cities in search of livelihood opportunities, better quality of life, and higher living standards. Poverty, low agricultural productivity, and food insecurity have forced many people to leave their rural homes and move to cities. In addition, high population density and rising income levels in some urban areas have increased the demand for urban housing.
- Pull factors: cities offer access to education and public health facilities, leisure and entertainment options such as restaurants and cinemas, better employment opportunities, better access to markets, more accessible communication, greater mobility, public health facilities such as hospitals, cheaper food supplies, availability of credit, and safety from natural disasters such as floods.
Positive Effects of Urbanization
Urbanization usually brings social and economic progress.
People move to cities for better access to jobs, better schools for their children, or simply to live among more people who feel more comfortable.
An urban area offers an easier way of life than a rural area because they’re more convenient; people don’t have to travel as far to get essential goods and services. Proximity means people have less time to commute between the places they need to go.
Urbanization has many effects on national economies.
When large numbers of people move to cities, businesses follow them. This makes sense – people need places to buy food, clothing, and entertainment.
More and more people are moving to cities in search of work, which positively impacts the economy.
Growing cities need new urban infrastructure that is suitable for residents and tourists. Infrastructure includes schools, hospitals, and other public facilities that improve the living conditions of residents, as well as transportation systems that make it easier for people to move around the city.
Urbanization promotes economic growth because it allows people to specialize in certain areas. For example, some are experts in computers and programming, while others are good at designing clothes. Jobs are then created in the new market economies that result from this specialization.
Urbanization also has a positive impact on foreign investment. Many investors choose to open new businesses in cities because they know a large customer base will be there. A more significant customer base means more consumerism and higher demand for goods and services.
When more people have money to spend on goods and services, businesses have a larger pool from which to hire employees. If consumer spending increases and businesses attract more customers, this usually creates new jobs.
As the world becomes more urbanized, people who live in cities have access to various employment opportunities. In a city, job opportunities exist in many fields, such as business, fashion, nightlife, technology, social science, economic development, research, etc.
People in cities also have better access to education and training opportunities. This gives them different options from their current employment and allows them to manage their careers better.
The number of people living in cities and better access to public transportation also make it easier for people to network professionally and thus find new job opportunities and start businesses.
Urbanization has a positive impact on how a country’s culture changes.
There are several positive effects of urbanization on culture. For example, urbanization can allow people from different places to interact with each other. Interaction between different groups can help people better understand other cultures and traditions. This type of interaction can create a sense of belonging among people living in a city because they learn more about different views and beliefs.
This can help eliminate racism, sexism, and other discrimination that might otherwise occur when everyone lives among people who look and act exactly like them.
Urban areas have more museums, galleries, and concert halls than rural communities, which means there’s greater access to culture, leading to greater appreciation and understanding. This is best observed in large cities, with hundreds of museums within a few kilometers.
In most developed countries, people living in urban areas have more access to, social programs and assistance than people living in rural areas.
The accessibility of these services can help reduce crime in an area and help urban residents in trouble avoid facing their challenges alone.
Social programs and assistance provide a higher level of security for less fortunate people. People can receive food stamps and other financial aid if they’re experiencing financial difficulties.
In cities like New York or London, urban residents often have access to urban centers, which allows them to be involved in urban governance and informed and engaged about urban planning and urban development expansion in their metropolitan area.
Involving urban dwellers in the care of urban centers is also an opportunity for social change and economic growth in their area.
Better Access to Public Health Services
It’s also easier for urban dwellers to get illness treatment because more specialists can treat them.
Easier access to specialists can significantly improve the quality of life for people living in urban areas. In rural areas with no hospitals nearby, people sometimes have to ask a neighbor or friend to drive them.
But with bus service, you can go wherever you want, and if you get sick, you can quickly get to the nearest hospital without asking anyone for help.
Education and Training Opportunities
As more people move into cities, more educational institutions are created, and more opportunities are available to further your education.
As a result, various educational opportunities are available to people at different costs, making access to education and training much easier.
It’s also easier to find free education or join communities with similar interests in large cities than in small communities.
Negative Effects of Urbanization
Urbanization can have both positive and negative impacts on society. Those considering urbanization must understand the potential consequences to make an informed decision.
Many cities haven’t been able to keep up with population growth. The cost of living has risen dramatically, and the strain on resources, especially housing, has become a significant problem.
Some people cannot afford to live in cities like New York City or San Francisco. This is due to the rising cost of housing and the lack of available space for development.
In recent years, some cities have become so expensive that it’s difficult for middle-class citizens to make ends meet.
Urbanization is increasing, with it, the cost of transportation, utilities, and education. For example, the cost of public transportation in cities like New York and London has increased many times over in various places.
Urbanization has also caused significant changes in the natural environment.
Urban development activities have massively destroyed the natural system and caused many environmental problems. Urbanization has caused many negative impacts on people, animals, and nature.
For example, it’s led to changes in consumption patterns that have caused an increase in the production, consumption, and generation of large amounts of single-use plastic – bottles, bags, food packaging, etc. Disposing of this plastic waste is a major environmental problem in urban areas as other hazardous wastes, such as pesticides and chemicals generated by agricultural activities.
Rapid urbanization is contributing to global warming and climate change.
This is because urban areas require a lot of energy for heat, electricity, and transportation. All of this energy is generated by burning fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gasses (e.g., carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide) into the atmosphere. These gasses act like a blanket that retains heat in our atmosphere, causing the average temperature on Earth to rise.
Noise is the most common negative impact of the urban environment. In many big cities, it’s hard to find a quiet place.
Traffic noise, sirens, construction, planes landing and taking off, and street music all contribute to the cacophony that makes city life so exciting but also stressful.
Trying to sleep in a city where you can hear every one of these sounds can be a problem for people who need a quiet environment to sleep in.
Although city living is often associated with better access to health services, there can also be a “dark side” to city life.
The stress of city life can affect urban residents’ overall health and well-being. Some city lifestyles can contribute to all sorts of health challenges: stress, lung problems, high blood pressure, obesity, low birth weight, and even depression.
Urban air pollution causes respiratory problems such as asthma and other lung diseases. Even a single day of exposure to polluted air can severely affect overall health.
City life is also associated with loneliness and isolation among urban residents who leave their established social networks behind when they move to a new place. In some cases, especially in large cities, this can lead to social isolation, which has been shown to impact mental health.
Rural and Urban Poverty
The rural population suffers major social problems due to the relocation of industries to rapid urbanization. There were more job opportunities in rural areas. And getting a job in the city was more accessible if you were willing to move. However, the rural population has to deal with unemployment and poverty.
Since space in cities is becoming limited and costly, some companies decide to relocate out of the city to rural areas where they’ve more space for their employees. This increases the unemployment rate in urban areas because there are fewer job opportunities there.
Poverty increases in cities that have experienced rapid urban growth due to business relocation and technological advances.
An increase in poverty can lead to a rise in crime, problems in education, and an increase in health problems among the poor.
It can also cause property values to decline for homeowners and commercial investors.
Urbanization also contributes to other forms of urban poverty, such as the concentration of people in slums or ghettos, especially in developing countries. Impoverished urban residents may be vulnerable to food shortages, unemployment, and crime. They may also find accessing essential services such as clean water and sanitation challenging.
Rapid urbanization in developing countries has brought huge problems. The trend is to build urban infrastructure quickly and then fill it with people. Not only is this unsustainable in the long term, but it can also lead to real problems for those living in these areas.
Mexico City in Latin America, for example, has grown by more than 22 million people in just over 120 years, from 345,000 in 1900, and according to Statista, Mexico City was the federated entity with the most crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in Mexico in 2019. That year, 62,000 crimes were registered in Mexico City, followed by 50,894 crimes in Guanajuato.
Urban sprawl describes the expansion of a city into its surrounding countryside.
As more urban land expansion is developed, it creeps into previously rural or natural areas, negatively impacting surrounding wildlife or even people living farther from the city.
This causes problems with urban infrastructure, such as water and electricity supply, but also forces people living in rural areas to leave their homes to find work in the cities, causing immense social dislocation and problems for individuals.
The problem of urban sprawl is occurring in many places worldwide, especially in fast-growing economies such as China, India, and Brazil. In some cities, such as New York City, urban planning has been curbed through zoning and urban land use regulations to control further urban expansion better.
Today, the urban population represents 55% of the global population, a percentage the population growth is expected to increase to 68% by 2050. Projections show that urbanization, the gradual shift of people’s residences from rural areas to cities, combined with overall growth in the world’s population, could bring an additional 2.5 billion people to cities by 2050, with nearly 90% of that increase occurring in Asia and Africa–2018 United Nations dataset.
This is a pioneering study comparing the governance arrangements in the five megacities (cities with an urban population of around 10 million) of South Asia, namely Dhaka in Bangladesh, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Delhi in India, and Karachi in Pakistan, within a common analytical framework.
Data could improve urban planning and public service delivery and help measure progress toward SDGs implementation.