Is the model of urbanisation working in the modern world?

Urbanisation is the growth in a proportion of a country’s population that lives in urban areas in contrast to rural areas. Urban areas are characterized as areas with high population densities and can be referred to as cities, towns and conurbations. Kingsley Davis (a social scientist) provided insight into urbanisation; particularly on the growth Europe’s urban areas and how urban areas in England grew due rapid population growth and rural to urban shifts. Key to Davis’ theories was the S curve. He argues that urbanisation follows the shape of an S.

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At the bottom of the S are pre industrial cities that urbanize very slowly. The shoot up in the middle of the S represents industrialisation. As cities begin to slow after such rapid change, they reach the top of the S. Davis stated that many advanced nations are now at the top of the S, whereas many of the developing countries are in the middle and emerging countries are moving along the slowly rising bottom of the S. Many developed nations experienced rapid urbanisation in the 20th century and some developing countries are still experiencing urban growth now in the 21st century. But urbanisation can have various political, social, economic and environmental implications and these impacts will be discussed in this essay.

The essay assessment suggests that urbanisation has been helpful for now developed nations. A notable example to use would be the industrial revolution of Europe in the 18th and 19th century and especially the growth of urban areas and populations in England. The invention of industrial processes which led to the development of the factory system drew in a great number of people from the rural areas of England.

Furthermore, this revolution saw gradual improvements in medicine, hygiene and public health; leading to people being able to live in close proximity to one another without leading to the spread of potentially fatal diseases. All this resulted in the urbanisation of areas such as London, Manchester and Liverpool and consequently, the English population increased by 187% between 1770 and 1870. Firstly, the urbanisation of England has seen many benefits arise. A key benefit of the urban growth of particular cities is that urbanisation led to the development of infrastructure. In London, there was increased investment in communications and transport.

The development of roads was very beneficial for businesses in terms of being able to transports good to different cities. In the early 20th century (just after the rapid industrial change) many businesses were opting to locate in London and Manchester due to the improvements in infrastructure. At the time, communications were improving and many factories were placed in London. The opening of new factories created employment opportunities for the urban populations. Thus, boosting the British economy at the time and resulting in greater living standards for many; a key indicator in development.

Also as the proportion of people living in urban areas increased, many unions began to form in a variety of different industries. As there was an excess supply of labour for many factories, wages were falling. Yet in 1832 (the year of the reform act) workers in specific industries came together and demanded that companies increase their wage structure. Many companies within competitive industries simply had to increase wage structures to avoid the cost of lost production. The unions improved wages, which meant they had an improved standard of living.

The inception of unions was imperative in allowing England to economically and socially develop. However, the essay title implies that rapid urbanisation was completely helpful and that there were no drawbacks. For some, there are clear negatives for the rapid urbanisation in England.

For example, the impact that urbanisation had upon the rural community. The surge in urbanisation has seen the agricultural sector suffer immensely. Before the urban expansion, the farming sector contributed towards roughly 50% of output. As factories began to dominate, the farming sector fell to below 20% with regards to national output. This led to a fall in the amount of jobs in the farming sector. With a fall in the amount of jobs and also rural depopulation, rural unemployment increased and poverty in rural areas steadily rose. Kinsley Davis sighted ‘rural to urban shifts’ as a main cause of urbanisation. But with so many people entering the cities of London and Manchester, there was the problem of excess supply of labour.

The amount of available people for work outstripped the demand for workers. In the 19th and early 20th century this was a huge problem. Davis said that with excess labour there will be a swollen workforce and consequently, wages will be depressed (the average wage of 10 shillings fell to 6 shillings). A fall in the level of wages was met by a rise in the price of housing due to the influx of people from rural areas. The rural to urban shifts created large financial problems for many of the people in towns and cities of high population densities.

Kingsley said that another problem of urbanisation is that the major cities of England would not be able to create adequate city services at a fast enough rate to manage the influx of newly born babies. According to Kingsley as a country reaches the middle part of the S curve there will be a scarcity of important resources and services. Improvements in roads etc will not be developed in time. This is what happened to London in the years after WW2, there was a post war baby boom and the city of London became incredibly overcrowded.

The essay title says that rapid urbanisation is not working for the developing world. This is a very debatable statement and there are a range of different viewpoints. But a good example to look at would be the Indian city of Mumbai. It is the largest city in India with 14.4 million people living there. It is recognised as the financial, industrial and cultural centre of India. Over recent years, Mumbai has experienced a great deal of urbanisation. This has brought along several positives and negatives. Thousands upon thousands of people are migrating to Mumbai due the broad range of employment opportunities.

The city of Mumbai was becoming crowded and inadequate to contain so many people over 50 years ago. Now the area is desperately overcrowded. One of the main areas of employment for the people of Mumbai is the Central Business District. However, the price of land in the district has increased dramatically due to the scarcity of available land. Currently, the prices of the business blocks have made Mumbai one of the most expensive places on earth. This has had further implications; the Indian government is greatly concerned that the area will lose its competitiveness.

With such high prices for only a small amount of land, the Indian government are worried about potentially losing companies that employ thousands of Indian citizens. If rent prices remain high then companies will decide to leave and force thousands of people into unemployment. Something which will lead to a fall in government receipts and a rise in the level of government spending on welfare. In addition, many of the migrants that are entering Mumbai are uneducated. They lack the required skills that are needed to gain a job in Mumbai. Yet even the people who are well educated and possess the skills needed for jobs, housing is in short supply. This influx of people has lead to the spread of suburbs.

Suburbs are residential outside of a city centre but within or just outside a city. In Mumbai, there is a spread of suburbs with poorly built housing, further and further away from the centre where most of the jobs are located. As the housing moves further away from the centre of Mumbai, it means that people will have to commute over a much longer distance via trains and buses; something that will add to the already heavily polluted city of Mumbai. From an environmental perspective the longer distance is very detrimental to the surrounding atmosphere of Mumbai. Although many problems have arisen as a result of the rapid urban expansion in Mumbai, there have been positive moves in the right direction.

The redevelopment of the Dharavi slum in 2006 is the planning of whole sale development of the slum. As each section of the Dharavi slum is cleared, the slum population will be re housed in new seven storey tenants. The benefits of this will be that unlike before, each house will have access to health care and civic amenities, there will be a reduction in visual pollution in Mumbai and families will now be on higher grounds; which will prevent the risk of flooding. The new development demonstrates that the Indian government is able to cope with rapid urbanisation and if the plan is successful, will reduce the amount of overcrowding in Mumbai.

Overall, I have looked at some of the impacts of urbanisation for both developed and developing countries. Personally, I feel the idea of rapid urbanisation can have many negative impacts, If we look at England in the 19th and early 20th century we can see that there many negatives such as rural unemployment and the initial wage depression. From an economic point of view, rapid urbanisation can lead to rises in the prices of many basic resources and there is typically a strain on resources.

Both Mumbai and major cities in England have also experienced strong positives such as national economic growth and in Mumbai’s case a housing scheme that, to some extent, tackles the overcrowding problem in slums. I believe that Urbanisation is imperative in helping a country develop but in order for the urbanisation to be effective their urban areas must expand gradually. Kingsley Davis puts forward the idea of cities not being able to meet rising populations but I think gradual development will reduce this risk and would be beneficial for developing nations.

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