Blog Nivedita Das Kundu

10:07 10/12/2012

Urbanization and its Challenges in Russia-India-China

Read more on:  India, China, Urbanization

Urbanization is a direct manifestation of the process of economic development. The challenges of rapid urbanization are being faced by Russia-India-China (RIC). Recent trend in the urbanization process shows that Asia will be the centre of future urbanization in the world.

The increased pace of urbanization and industrialization in post-reform Russia had a profound impact upon urban society and on its size & structure. Despite legal, economic and public health barriers, large number of people poured each year into the cities in search of food or fortune. Urbanization in Russia brought tremendous social and economic upheaval, bringing the growth of new social class i.e. a new class of capitalists. Urban population dynamics in the post Soviet Russia have been characterized by significant changes in the overall population dynamics of Russia. In today’s Russia, the main zones of population concentration are mostly in Russian towns which have mainly emerged within a 500 km radius around Moscow. This region has set the tone of economic reforms attracting migrants from around the country as well as from former Soviet states.

Urbanization largely focuses on the issue as one of impending crisis. Infrastructure is already falling apart, cities have exhausted their funds, and slums increased leading to social unrest. There are not enough job & basic facilities in rural areas and therefore migration is continuing from rural areas. In spite of numerous problems the fact remains that urban dwellers have contributed widely in transforming the economy. Fundamentally, the reason cities attract migrants is that they provide jobs, which eventually lead to economic growth. Though urbanization created reasonable economic growth and opportunity in Russia-India-China but decent living environment needs are missing in most of the urban sectors.

Urbanization is related to the stagnation and volatility of agriculture and lack of sectoral diversification within agrarian economy and India is no exception to this fact. The growth rates in agricultural production and income has been noted low, unstable and disparate across regions in India over the past decade, resulting in lack of livelihood opportunities in rural areas. Rapid growth of urban population was also observed in India over past decade. India has been considered to be a major contributor to the incremental urban population, both due to its large demographic weight and also due to dynamics of urbanization.

Due to urbanization in India the existing cities are growing rapidly in all directions. Current estimates of urban population are in excess of 300 million and likely to reach 600 million by 2030. It seems over the next few years the urban population will be close to double in less than two decades. The population of towns and cities in India is set to double in the space of a generation. This paradigm shift and the urbanization process is attracting attention of demographers, sociologists, scientists, and politician’s creating disparity and confusion.

China’s rapid urbanization process has created huge migration over the past few years. Within a few decades, China will have hundreds of millions of new city dwellers.
Soon urbanization will turn this predominantly rural country into a highly urbanized society. Research reports also mentioned that this pattern will continue. This process will drive fundamental shifts and will have significant consequences for the world economy. The year 2011 marked a milestone in China’s several-thousand-year history as for the first time, more people lived in cities and in towns than in the countryside. The country’s 690 million urban dwellers now account for 51.3% of China’s total population of 1.35 billion. China’s recent urban transition is definitely a historic event of global importance. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has called this process as one of the significant force shaping the world in the 21st century. In 2012, China’s urbanization landmark has assumed significance for the global economy too. With Europe’s debt crisis and US and Japan’s struggle to maintain growth, many looked at Asia as the saviour of the world economy. The huge potential of the Asian market, based on the assumption of a rapidly rising middle class across the continent has fuelled hopes for a global rebound and growth for the next two decades.

It is true that China is undergoing rapid urbanization, if one simply looks at the number of people relocating to cities and the new buildings being built-up. But China’s rural-urban transition is bit different from urbanization elsewhere in the world, the process there is a much more complicated phenomenon. China’s hukou system allows rural migrants to go and work in the cities but denies their access to urban social security. The popular narratives have too often overlooked China’s special set of conditions, especially how the rural-urban divide increased by institutions such as the hukou (household registration) system. Hampered by an obsolete hukou system, this model has constrained the growth of the middle class and consumption demand. A major overhaul is needed to improve the overall economic & social system. Once that is in place, one can begin to envision that China urbanizing its way to prosperity taking the rest of the world along with it.

Urbanization brings with it a unique set of advantages and disadvantages. The contemporary urban scenario in RIC (Russia-India-China) shows that the growth in urban population has been modest and also fluctuating over the past few decades. Cities attract rural population for better employment & education opportunities, good health care but rapid and often unplanned urban growth is often associated with poverty, environmental degradation and population demands that outstrip service capacity in the process of urbanization, affecting the entire gamut of population in these three significant countries of the world Russia-India-China.

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