Urban Rural Migration

The migration of people from the rural to urban areas in search of the employment opportunities has been a crucial part of urbanisation in the developing world. For the first time in the history of the world, more than half of the entire population lives in the urban areas. More than 90 % of the migration process is taking place in the developing world. The migration mostly occurs among young adults aged between 15 and 30 in most parts of Asia and Africa. Projections indicate that this trend is likely to continue well into the future (Lucas, 2015). For instane, Ethiopia is one of the least urbanised nations in the world. As such, the number of Ethiopians living in urban areas will increase due to the process of rural-urban migration in the next four decades. In principle, urban areas and cities offer more socioeconomic prospects in comparison to urban areas. Urban areas offer better schools and health services while generating more jobs and economic opportunities than rural settings (Lucas, 2015). However, for the developing nations, mostly in Africa and Asia, rapid urbanisation or rural-urban migration is placing a strain on the physical infrastructure as well as on the social and public services, thus concentrating poverty in urban areas. Urban areas are struggling to offer schools and quality health services to a rising population. The biggest challenge for the future is managing the pace and scale of rural to urban migration, especially in developing nations that are struggling with slower rates of economic development and limited resources.

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Perspective of Being Unemployed in the Short Term

The uptake of modern family planning services in rural parts of Africa and Asia is still low due to their scarce availability. More so, for most people living in rural areas of the developing world, finding gainful employment and getting quality education can only be achieved by migrating to urban areas. Also, agricultural production, which is the economic mainstay and lifeblood of rural areas, is a risky affair that is often affected by the vagaries of weather, including floods and drought. Due to the limited availability of crop and livestock insurance, rural families often rely on family members living in distant urban areas to provide money for food and other household needs (Katuli, 2017).

Rural to urban migration, or internal migration, is often projected to increase the migrants’ well-being in the long-term perspective. However, in the short term, migrants can worse off than they were before they made the decision to migrate. This is likely due to the fact that it takes a lot time to get into gainful employment and establish the needed social relations in urban areas (Lall, Selod, and Shalizi, 2006). Most of the people migrate into urban centres and cities knowing they will remain unemployed in the short term due to competition for scarce job opportunities. The Harris-Todaro model seeks to explain migration from rural to urban areas, particularly in the developing nations, even when the opportunities for employment in cities and urban areas are still few and far between (Lucas, 2016). The Harris-Todaro model sees rural migration as an individual investment, which people are willing to make because of an increased chance of getting jobs with higher wages in industries as compared to farms in rural areas (Lucas, 2015). However, the probability of unemployment in the cities creates an equilibrium, which helps to regulate rural to urban migration. Absorbing rural immigrants into city or urban economies is not always easy. While migrating to cities and urban areas provides one with economic opportunities to enhance their living standards, the high cost of living and competition for limited job opportunities can trap people in poverty (Lall et al., 2006).

The overall effect of internal migration on the migrants’ wellbeing has not theoretically been established. Empirical evidence continues to provide mixed evidence on the overall impact of internal migration on the wellbeing of the migrant. For instance a study in Tanzania established that migrants had a 36% rise in the consumption level compared to the stayers. Other studies conducted in the developing world have established that the migrants have lower levels of happiness than the stayers. While monetary returns for those relocating from the rural settings to cities can easily be projected, other aspects of migration like social and environmental conditions in cities and urban areas can trigger high levels of dissatisfaction among the migrants (Katuli, 2017).

Rapid urbanisation challenges the capacity of governments and city authorities to plan and adapt. The International Labour Organisation estimates the global labour market will receive 1.25 billion new entrants by 2025. Most of the new entrants will come from the developing nations. This will require the creation of new jobs in the cities. Jobs have to be created if cities want to develop into the hubs of economic opportunity and civilisation rather than the centres of misery and equality. Only the creation of gainful employment opportunities will break the vicious circle of urban poverty that is taking root in cities and urban areas of developing nations (Lucas, 2015).

Role of the Informal Sector

Majority of the migrants who do not access employment in formal sector end up being employed in the informal sector. Some of the migrants are permanently stuck in the informal sector due to the limited opportunities in the formal sector. Even though the informal helps most of the migrants escape poverty, there is massive exploitation within it. Migrants spend years working in the informal sector, although they rarely experience an increase in real income. However, the silver lining is that the urban informal sector jobs offer higher wages than the rural informal sector jobs (Katuli, 2017). However, jobs in the informal sector are only available during a limited number of days in a week. More so, the informal sector workers are subjected to long working hours and low pay. They also work in poor conditions with limited social and job security. Informal jobs can be found in sectors like construction, transport, trade and services, among other fields. These jobs vary in wages, and therefore, one can find a multi-modal wage distribution within the informal sector in urban centres and cities. At the start of the decade almost a third of the global urban population was living in poverty with lack of gainful employment cited as one of the direct causes (Chan, 2013). Asia has the highest concentration of urban poverty followed by Africa. Urban unemployment has been accompanied by urbanisation of poverty in developing nations. Poverty-related issues such as crime, malnutrition, disease, hunger and overcrowding are now equally common in cities and in the urban areas of the developing nations. The urban poor also face limited access to education, shelter, health and other social services (Katuli, 2017).

Urbanisation in the developing nations is not bad per se. It helps to enhance benefits like cultural, social and economic development. Well managed cities can improve the social and economic wellbeing of the urban dwellers, including access to gainful employment, health services and educational opportunities. The diversity of people in cities can trigger innovation and create employment opportunities as people breed and exchange ideas. However, this utopian idea is under threat from some of the elements that are driving rapid urbanisation in the developing world. One of these factor is rural to urban migration, which is mostly driven by prospects of employment opportunities and a better life in urban areas and cities. A rapid swell in the urban population can create problems, particularly if planning mechanisms have not been put in place to cope with a huge influx of people from rural areas.



Chan, K.W. (2013). China, internal migration. In The encyclopedia of global human migration. Hoboken, NJ: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., pp.571-594.

Katuli, F., 2017. The challenges of rural-urban migration in developing countries. Tanzania Journal for Population studies and Development, 20(1-2), pp.17-28.

Lall, S.V., Selod, H. and Shalizi, Z., 2006. Rural-urban migration in developing countries: a survey of theoretical predictions and empirical findings. Washington, DC: The World Bank.

Lucas, R.E., 2015. Internal migration in developing economies: an overview. [Online] Available at: <http://www.unescogym.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Internal-Migration-in-Developing-Economies.-An-Overview.pdf> [Accessed Dec. 25, 2019].

Lucas, R.E., 2016. Internal migration in developing economies: an overview of recent evidence. Geopolitics, History, and International Relations, 8(2), pp.159-191.