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8 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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How migration affects the poor urban settlements

Richer countries’ investment in health and education in developing countries would help foster long-term cooperation in managing migration pressures and improve the productive capabilities both of migrants and those who remain at home
Shishir Reza
How migration affects the poor 
urban settlements

The genesis of migration lies in people’s quest to live or subsist in a form better than their present status. Some migrate for sheer survival, that is, to escape from poverty; others, to improve their quality of life, while still others search for fortune. Since each of these pursuits is made by people who come from different socio-economic strata and hence have a different purpose for moving, migration is quite a heterogeneous phenomenon. In contemporary low-income economies, however, the principal reason for people to move is the worsening productive-resource-to-human-power ratio, stemming mainly from rapid population growth and an external demand for local resources. This has compelled large sections of the populace to migrate to look for work as a part of their survival strategy. Depending upon the needs and circumstances, people move seasonally, for fixed periods, or permanently. In this sense, the transition economies of South-East Asia, some of which are among the poorer ones in the world, present a picture typical of other low-income countries.

As with migration to the cities, people move in search of a better life for themselves and their families. Income disparities among and within regions is one motivating factor, as are the labor and migration policies of sending and receiving countries. Political conflict drives migration across borders as well as within countries. Environmental degradation, including the loss of farmland, forests and pasture, also pushes people to leave their homes. Most "environmental refugees", however, go to cities rather than abroad.  

Richer countries’ investment in health and education in developing countries would help foster long-term cooperation in managing migration pressures and improve the productive capabilities both of migrants and those who remain at home. While younger adults are more likely to migrate than older people, women make up nearly half of the international migrant population. Family reunification policies of receiving countries are one factor influencing migration by women, but women themselves are increasingly likely to move in search of jobs. Women frequently end up in the low-status, low-wage production and service jobs, and are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, including sexual abuse.  Among refugees, women and children are in the majority.

The world is steadily becoming more urban, as people move to cities and towns in search of employment, educational opportunities and higher standards of living. Some are driven away from land that, for whatever reason, can no longer support them. By the year 2005, urban areas are expected to be home to more than half of the world’s people.

Already 74 per cent of Latin American and Caribbean populations live in urban areas, as do 73 per cent of people in Europe, and more than 75 per cent of people in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. In both Africa and Asia, urban dwellers represent about a third of the total populations. However, there are significant variations between individual countries. In Africa, for example, more than 50 per cent of the populations of Algeria, South Africa and Tunisia reside in urban areas.

The role of migration in urbansation is obvious in all societies and at almost all times, since urbanisation and urban growth take place through a combination of three components, such as (a) natural increase of the native urban population, (b) area redefinition or reclassification or annexation and (c) rural-urban (or other forms of internal) migration. In a condition of developing urbanization, role of migration is even more pronounced while in the state of advanced urbanization, where urban growth is almost stagnant or even declining, internal migration plays a minor or almost no role. Rural to urban migration may again take many forms, such as (a) permanent migration, (b) temporary migration, (c) seasonal migration, (d) circular migration and (c) commuting. The process ranges from short distance mobility (commuting) to long distance and long term movement or permanent migration. The 1996 Habitat Global Report on Human Settlements highlighted the importance of the study of internal migration in developing countries and also noted the paucity of such studies. In the case of Bangladesh, status of academic as well as planning studies on internal migration is not too bad, although, all dimensions of internal migration might not have received enough attention.  Only a few studies took a macro-approach looking at internal Urbanization, Migration and Development in Bangladesh 8   migration on a national scale and its many dimensions, while most of the other studies focused on rural to urban migration and more specifically on migrants at the urban end.  Even in such cases, saving a few, majority of the studies were related to Dhaka. Only a few major survey works were conducted on other cities, such as Khulna and Mymensingh.

Considerable literature exists on the subject of determinants or causes of rural to urban migration. A Bangladeshi scholar working at an American University has, in a recent paper, classified the models of causes of migration into two groups (i) one which isolates migration as a domestic phenomenon and (ii) the other which places causes of migration within an  international politico- economic framework. Migration is the combined effect of both push and pulls factors and it is often difficult to separate the role of the two. Within the Push-Pull model, push factors (at rural end) may be identified for Bangladesh as:  1) Population pressure, adverse person-land ratio, landlessness and poverty; 2) Frequent and severe natural disasters (particularly river bank erosion); 3) Law and order situation and 4) Lack of social and cultural opportunities.

The impact rural to urban migration is both diverse and deep, both at the urban destination end and at the rural origin. Most of the researches have been at the urban end. Urbanization and urban growth occurring due to migration have both positive and negative consequences and impacts. Some of the positive consequences of urbanization are the following: Economic benefits: higher productivity, better income etc; Demographic benefits: lowering of age at marriage, reduction of fertility rate; Socio-cultural benefits: modernization; Political benefits: empowerment, democracy; Improved access to information technology; Some of these have already been discussed in the preceding sections. We will now have a little more discussion on the negative consequences of migration and urbanization. Urbanization is not an unmixed blessing. Its negative consequences are of great concern. These assume critical role under situation of rapid and uncontrolled or unplanned urban expansion. The negative consequences can be grouped as the following: Environmental consequences; Encroachment on productive agricultural land and forests;  Extreme pressure on housing, growth of slums and the pressure on and urban  services; Economic consequences, leading to income inequality and poverty, ill effects of globalization; Social consequences, resulting in increased violence and crime, social Degradation; Cultural consequences: entry of alien culture, loss of national cultural identity; and Criminalization of politics.

Policymakers should eliminate primate city favoritism; improve urban efficiency, in order to lower the cost of living curve by dealing with urban crowding and providing public goods; eliminate the biases that lead to squatter settlements with a reasonable titling policy and urban deregulation; improve market access between cities by developing transport infrastructure and lowering impediments to trade ; and not discourage internal migration, which fosters an efficient allocation of the population and has an equalizing effect across places.

The Writer is an Environmental Analyst and Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association.

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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