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Exclusionary Urbanisation in Asia: A Macro Overview

Studies on internal migration are constrained by the fact that no international organisation systematically collects or tabulates even the basic demographic information on internal migration in a cross-sectionally and temporally comparable manner. Researchers have surprisingly concluded that internal migration within Asian countries is high and increasing over time. This alarmist perspective could be attributed to the projection of urban population made by the Population Division of the United Nations and other national and international agencies. This has guided governments of several countries, leading to measures to control inflow of people for security concerns or to reduce pressure on limited amenities in the destination regions. In this context, the paper examines the proposition that rural-urban migration has accelerated over the recent decades in the Asian countries, particularly during the 1990s, incorporating the history, social fabric and political environment in the explanatory framework.


Exclusionary Urbanisation in Asia: A Macro Overview

Amitabh Kundu

Studies on internal migration are constrained by the fact that no international organisation systematically collects or tabulates even the basic demographic information on internal migration in a cross-sectionally and temporally comparable manner. Researchers have surprisingly concluded that internal migration within Asian countries is high and increasing over time. This alarmist perspective could be attributed to the projection of urban population made by the Population Division of the United Nations and other national and international agencies. This has guided governments of several countries, leading to measures to control inflow of people for security concerns or to reduce pressure on limited amenities in the destination regions. In this context, the paper examines the proposition that rural-urban migration has accelerated over the recent decades in the Asian countries, particularly during the 1990s, incorporating the history, social fabric and political environment in the explanatory framework.

This is a revised and abridged version of the unpublished report p repared for UNDP as a background paper for the Human Development Report 2009. Kind permission for its publication in EPW is acknowledged.

Amitabh Kundu ( is at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University, N ew Delhi.

1 Introduction

n overview of the contemporary literature on population mobility in Asia suggests that despite widely different trends and patterns, alternate policy frameworks and varying ideological dispositions of the policymakers and r esearchers, the dominant perspective is that the continent is currently experiencing rapid urbanisation and that this would continue in future years. The past decade and a half has been considered to be a period of a progressive shift of the epicentre of urbanisation from “the predominantly northern latitudes of developed countries to the southern ones of developing countries” and one where “the mean latitude of global urban population has been steadily moving south” (Mohan and Dasgupta 2005). Several countries in Asia are noted to be experiencing acceleration in the growth in rural-urban (RU) migrants since the late 1970s and as a result, the continent currently accounts for about one half of the world’s urban population. Projections have been made that the pace of urbanisation would go up in the next few decades which would double Asia’s urban population during 2000-2030, its share in global urban population going up from 48% to 54%.1

The proponents of “market and governance” oriented perspective believe that the strategy of globalisation and structural r eform is responsible for the acceleration in RU migration, giving boost to the pace of urbanisation. The latter is attributed to pull factors operating through the cities and towns and much of the investment and consequent increase in employment is taking place within or around the existing urban centres. This rapid pace of urbanisation is promoted by the scale of production, particularly in manufacturing, information asymmetries contributing to agglomeration economies, technological developments in transport and building sectors and substitution of capital for land. Even when the industrial units get located in inland rural settlements or virgin coastal areas, in a few years, the latter a cquire urban status.

This perspective and the proposed package of solutions have not gone unchallenged. It is argued that the pace of migration and urban development in Asia is associated with accentuation of regional and interpersonal inequality, resulting in increased p overty.2 Furthermore, employment generation in the formal u rban economy is not high due to capital-intensive nature of i ndustrialisation. A low rate of infrastructural investment in public sector – necessary for keeping budgetary deficits low – is r esulting in deceleration of agricultural growth. This, coupled with an open trade policy is responsible for a “contraction of purchasing power” and destabilisation of the agrarian economy, causing high u nemployment and exodus from rural areas. All

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Table 1: Urbanisation Scenario in Major Regions of the World and Countries in Asia these are leading to rapid growth in urban population in several countries, with most of the migrants being absorbed in the informal economy. The protagonists as also the critics of globalisation, thus, converge on the proposition that urban growth in the post-liberalisation phase would be high. An analysis of the trend and process of urbanisation in Asia, however, gives reasons for q uestioning its validity. It would be important to begin the a nalysis of demographic trend by examining the empirical Percentage of Urban to Total Population Urban Rural Growth Differential 1950 1970 1990 2000 2005 2025 2030 1950-70 1970-90 1990-2000 1990-05 2005-25 2005-30 2000-30 World 29.06 36.01 42.96 46.60 48.58 57.23 59.69 1.59 1.46 1.47 1.51 1.74 1.80 1.76 Africa 14.51 23.60 32.00 35.95 37.89 47.19 50.02 2.99 2.10 1.76 1.73 1.91 1.98 1.93 Sub-Saharan Africa 11.06 19.52 28.22 32.76 35.00 45.20 48.17 3.34 2.42 2.15 2.10 2.13 2.18 2.15 Europe 51.21 62.77 70.53 71.42 71.92 76.21 77.84 2.37 1.75 0.43 0.46 1.12 1.26 1.14 Latin Ame & Carri 41.35 57.01 70.64 75.35 77.52 83.51 84.65 3.16 2.98 2.39 2.40 1.92 1.88 1.97 Central America 42.74 59.68 74.49 68.69 81.78 87.39 77.71 2.95 2.33 1.67 1.58 1.54 1.57 1.54 South America 39.24 53.81 64.99 79.46 70.16 76.17 88.29 3.42 3.40 2.81 2.87 2.17 2.07 2.22 North America 63.90 73.80 75.43 79.14 80.73 85.67 86.68 2.32 0.43 2.12 2.07 1.78 1.76 1.80 Australia/New Zealand 76.16 84.51 85.29 86.91 87.86 90.87 91.47 2.68 0.30 1.36 1.48 1.59 1.57 1.60 Asia without China 16.77 22.66 31.91 37.72 39.74 51.06 51.53 1.95 2.01 1.42 1.42 1.86 1.97 1.88 Asia 19.22 26.00 34.45 37.05 39.41 48.54 54.13 1.87 2.35 2.28 2.28 2.29 2.33 2.32 Eastern Asia 16.47 22.81 33.00 40.42 44.48 59.20 62.40 2.02 2.56 3.20 3.24 2.97 2.91 2.98 China 13.00 17.40 27.40 35.78 40.42 56.87 60.33 1.72 2.92 3.89 3.91 3.32 3.23 3.35 Hong Kong, China 85.21 87.72 99.53 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00 1.08 16.91 Macao, China 97.37 96.85 99.73 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00 -0.93 12.45 DPR Korea 31.00 54.20 58.38 60.18 61.59 70.15 72.36 4.84 0.85 0.74 0.89 1.91 1.96 1.83 Japan 34.85 53.20 63.09 65.22 65.96 71.09 72.98 3.77 2.04 0.92 0.84 1.19 1.33 1.22 Mongolia 19.97 45.06 57.04 56.56 56.72 63.14 65.67 5.95 2.41 -0.20 -0.09 1.34 1.51 1.28 Republic of Korea 21.35 40.71 73.84 79.62 80.79 85.24 86.26 4.64 7.07 3.25 2.66 1.59 1.60 1.58 South-Central Asia 16.44 20.45 27.21 29.46 30.63 39.65 43.02 1.33 1.87 1.10 1.11 1.99 2.15 1.97 Afghanistan 5.80 11.03 18.32 21.28 22.90 32.74 36.23 3.50 2.96 1.87 1.87 2.47 2.59 2.48 Bangladesh 4.28 7.59 19.81 23.59 25.67 37.35 41.04 3.04 5.50 2.23 2.23 2.73 2.80 2.71 Bhutan 2.38 6.04 16.45 25.40 30.93 52.26 56.17 4.85 5.60 5.48 5.48 4.47 4.21 4.42 India 17.04 19.76 25.55 27.66 28.70 37.17 40.60 0.91 1.66 1.08 1.06 1.93 2.12 1.94 Iran 27.55 41.21 56.33 64.20 66.94 76.03 77.86 3.06 3.05 3.29 3.00 2.25 2.21 2.24 Kazakhstan 36.36 50.24 56.27 56.28 57.10 64.47 66.84 2.85 1.21 0.00 0.23 1.55 1.66 1.49 Kyrgyzstan 26.49 37.48 37.77 35.40 35.80 42.85 46.16 2.54 0.06 -1.02 -0.57 1.48 1.72 1.49 Maldives 10.98 11.57 25.93 27.84 33.90 56.69 60.83 0.30 4.92 0.97 2.55 4.69 4.43 4.64 Nepal 2.67 3.96 8.85 13.43 15.76 27.15 30.61 2.03 4.29 4.69 4.37 3.45 3.43 3.48 Pakistan 17.52 24.82 30.58 33.17 34.88 46.25 49.80 2.20 1.44 1.20 1.30 2.37 2.47 2.31 Sri Lanka 15.33 19.52 17.20 15.71 15.14 18.84 21.40 1.46 -0.78 -1.08 -1.01 1.32 1.69 1.26 Tajikistan 29.37 36.88 31.66 26.50 26.40 31.07 34.12 1.70 -1.16 -2.51 -1.71 1.14 1.47 1.21 Turkmenistan 44.92 47.78 45.07 45.85 47.32 57.43 60.43 0.58 -0.55 0.31 0.60 2.03 2.12 1.97 Uzbekistan 31.42 36.72 40.12 37.26 36.68 42.87 46.15 1.18 0.72 -1.21 -0.97 1.29 1.57 1.22 South-Eastern Asia 15.44 21.45 31.63 39.75 44.09 58.74 61.84 2.01 2.64 3.55 3.56 2.95 2.88 3.00 Brunei Darussalam 27.08 61.54 65.76 71.17 73.53 80.99 82.35 7.30 0.91 2.51 2.46 2.14 2.08 2.12 Cambodia 10.19 15.97 12.60 16.91 19.73 33.21 36.98 2.58 -1.38 3.45 3.56 3.52 3.48 3.53 Indonesia 12.40 17.07 30.58 42.00 48.14 65.90 68.94 1.87 3.80 4.97 4.97 3.67 3.49 3.73 Lao PDR 7.22 9.64 15.43 21.98 27.38 48.96 53.08 1.58 2.68 4.34 4.84 4.67 4.39 4.64 Malaysia 20.36 33.46 49.79 61.97 67.61 80.51 82.21 3.38 3.40 4.97 4.96 3.41 3.18 3.47 Myanmar 16.16 22.83 24.87 28.03 30.65 44.64 48.39 2.14 0.56 1.62 1.92 3.01 3.01 2.93 Philippines 27.14 32.98 48.78 58.55 62.71 74.58 76.69 1.39 3.30 3.94 3.79 2.78 2.68 2.82 Singapore 99.41 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00 3.57 1.87 2.87 2.41 0.83 0.74 0.86 Thailand 16.48 20.89 29.42 31.14 32.30 42.24 45.77 1.46 2.28 0.81 0.90 2.13 2.28 2.08 Timor-Leste 9.93 12.91 20.81 24.30 26.05 36.40 39.89 1.48 2.86 2.00 1.95 2.43 2.53 2.42 Vietnam 11.64 18.30 20.25 24.28 26.41 38.08 41.77 2.65 0.63 2.33 2.30 2.69 2.77 2.68 Western Asia 28.64 44.60 61.04 63.75 65.04 70.74 72.51 3.48 3.33 1.15 1.14 1.31 1.40 1.35 Armenia 42.54 59.89 67.45 65.09 64.05 66.95 69.06 3.51 1.64 -1.06 -1.01 0.64 0.90 0.60 Azerbaijan 42.47 50.00 53.74 51.20 51.53 57.34 60.05 1.52 0.75 -1.02 -0.59 1.17 1.38 1.20 Bahrain 63.79 83.64 88.03 88.31 88.41 90.02 90.63 5.33 1.82 0.26 0.24 0.84 0.95 0.83 Cyprus 28.34 40.81 66.67 68.70 69.38 74.66 76.42 2.78 5.32 0.93 0.83 1.31 1.43 1.30 Georgia 37.31 47.48 55.05 52.67 52.47 57.59 60.18 2.09 1.52 -0.96 -0.69 1.04 1.26 1.02 Iraq 35.13 56.15 69.71 67.83 66.90 68.60 70.48 4.30 2.93 -0.87 -0.86 0.39 0.67 0.41 Israel 70.99 84.20 90.36 91.44 91.62 92.60 93.06 3.89 2.83 1.30 1.02 0.68 0.82 0.76 Jordan 37.08 55.95 72.22 78.25 78.30 80.78 81.97 3.84 3.58 3.25 2.19 0.76 0.93 0.78 Kuwait 61.84 85.75 97.99 98.20 98.30 98.65 98.71 6.56 10.47 1.13 1.11 1.17 1.14 1.13 Lebanon 32.02 59.48 83.12 86.00 86.59 89.36 90.05 5.68 6.05 2.21 1.80 1.32 1.35 1.29 Palestine 37.31 54.29 67.87 71.48 71.58 75.58 77.23 3.45 2.88 1.71 1.17 1.03 1.19 1.01 Oman 8.55 29.59 66.09 71.57 71.48 74.71 76.35 7.51 7.67 2.56 1.68 0.82 1.01 0.83 Qatar 80.00 88.29 92.29 94.98 95.48 96.73 96.90 3.17 2.31 4.57 3.78 1.69 1.57 1.68 Saudi Arabia 21.31 48.67 76.58 79.85 80.98 85.24 86.24 6.27 6.19 1.92 1.76 1.53 1.55 1.53 Syrian Arab Republic 30.63 43.34 48.93 51.63 53.19 61.38 63.99 2.75 1.13 1.08 1.14 1.68 1.79 1.70 Turkey 24.77 38.24 59.20 64.74 67.28 75.91 77.73 3.16 4.26 2.35 2.33 2.13 2.12 2.14 United Arab Emirates 54.29 77.78 79.06 77.83 77.73 81.24 82.45 5.40 0.38 -0.73 -0.52 1.08 1.19 0.97 Yemen 5.79 13.30 20.93 26.27 28.93 41.69 45.35 4.57 2.73 2.97 2.87 2.81 2.85 2.82 Economic & Political Weekly november 28, 2009 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v alidity of the proposition of rapid RU m igration and unprecedented urban growth.3

The present paper overviews the urbanisation process across Asian countries and regions since the 1950s including the projections made till 2030 and is organised as follows: Section 2 e xamines the thesis of southward movement of urbanisation and urban explosion. Section 3 overviews the changing structure of urban population across different size categories, shift of growth d ynamics from large to second order cities and stagnation of small towns in different regions of Asia. Possibility of decomposing incremental urban population into natural growth, new towns, expansion of urban boundaries and RU migration has been considered in the context of non-availability of data on internal migration from standard international sources in Section 4. It also speculates on the change in the share of each of these components based on fragmented statistical evidence from different countries, as also the policies and programmes launched at the national, regional and city levels. Section 5 attempts to understand the dynamics of urbanisation in a historical and sociocultural context and explores if that can justify the projection of urban future made by the United Nations (UN) agencies. The m ajor findings of the study and reflections on the future urban scenario of Asia based on these are presented in the last section.

2 An Overview of Trend and Pattern of Urbanisation

The demographic weight of Asia, accounting for over 60% of world population, is so overwhelming that researchers, planners and administrators often derive their perspectives on urbanisation based on the absolute magnitudes or the changes in these in relation to corresponding global figures. The fact that the share of Asia in world urban population has gone up from 32% in 1950 to 44% in 1970 and then to about 50% in 2005 has often been quoted to support an over-optimistic or alarmist view of urbanisation. That Asia claimed about half of the world’s urban population in 20084 and that it would exceed the global figure by 16% in 2030 are simple milestones and not significant landmarks or major achievements in history. The large share of Asia in the total number of migrants or in the incremental urban population reflects the impact of its large rural and urban population base and the high growth therein. Similarly, the number (or its share in global total) of cities above a certain cut-off point (say a million or five million) increasing dramatically in the recent past simply implies that a large number of cities existed just below that point in Asia; and the population growth here, which is largely due to natural and sociocultural factors, is higher than their counterparts in developed countries. These milestones would have been achieved in a decade or so, even if the urban rural growth d ifferential (URGD, taken here as the difference between the annual exponential growth rate of population in urban and rural areas) was below that of the rest of the world, simply because of Asia’s higher population growth.

A glance at Table 1 (p 49) reveals that the speed of urbanisation in Latin America including the Caribbean during the second half of the last century was spectacular, which led the percentage of u rban population to go up from 41% to 75%. Africa, too, registered similar urban growth during 1950-70, the rate slowing down thereafter. Sub-Saharan Africa has recorded an even higher

50 URGD (which has continued throughout the half century) as is the case of South America (a region within Latin America). It has been argued that Asia now “will replicate the experience of these continents”.

The growth rates in urban population and URGD in Asia are reasonably high but have fluctuated over the past decades (Table 1). The rates were above that of the world average, both when China is included and excluded in the calculations, during the entire second half of the last century. Understandably, these were higher than that of Europe and North America mainly because, in the latter two regions, the rural population base, from where migrants come to cities and towns, was very low due to the high percentage of urban population. The Asian rates have, nonetheless, been consistently below that of South America and Sub-Saharan Africa. More importantly, these were less than that of Latin America and whole of Africa until the mid-1970s (Kundu and Kundu 2009). The rates have declined since the late 1960s. The real acceleration in urban growth and URGD came during the s econd half of the 1970s, the rates being higher than that of Africa and about the same as Latin America during 1975-90. The Asian URGD declined once again from 2.35% during 1970-90 to 2.28% during 1990-2000, the latter being less than that of Latin America and has remained so during the entire period 1990-2005, for which data are available.

2.1 Regional and Cross Country Variation

Asian urbanisation trends are characterised by wide diversity across countries which can only partially be explained in terms of their levels of economic development and disparity in growth. The context of history, social fabric and political environment will have to be considered as important determinants of the explanatory framework.

Analysing variations within the regions, the differential urban growth across the countries in west Asia can easily be attributed to their macroeconomic development. Most of these countries show a decline in their URGD, from the first period (1950-70), to the second period (1970-90), and then to the third period (19902005). Focusing on what is popularly known as the central Asia region, one observes that several countries have reported significant decline in urban growth and a negative URGD during 19902005, implying that rural growth was higher than that for urban areas. The complete disruption of an otherwise integrated system has led to destabilisation of the economies in the region. The S oviet system with its emphasis on development of urban infrastructure was no longer in existence to attract the rural population into urban centres. On the other hand, the disarray in the economy affected the process of industrial growth adversely. U nderstandably, the withdrawal or weakening of the federal support that had sustained their growth in the 1950s and 1960s dwindled the economic base of their cities.

Unfortunately, most of the other countries in the region belonging to the west Asia are experiencing a similar pattern, a lthough a few of these could carry forward their urban growth dynamics of the first period in to the second period, before r egistering a decline in the third.5 This can be linked to the boom in urban economy due to their oil-linked earnings and pheno menal growth in c onstruction

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industry, creating commercial and business space for the global actors. The cities in the region understandably collapsed with the withdrawal of commercial and financial capital, as their growth was not rooted in a strong industrial base. The significant deceleration in the growth rate of foreign migrants compared to the preceding three decades and a net outmigration during the 1990s (Kundu 2009) can be attributed to the economic meltdown in the countries which affected their cities adversely.

The fastest growing region in Asia is west Asia which has recorded an urban growth rate between 4% and 5% and URGD b etween 3% and 4% during 1950-90 (Table 1). The subsequent d ecline, however, is very dramatic, coming down from 4.5% in the 1980s to 1.1% in the 1990s and in the subsequent years. The scenario in south-east Asia in some sense contrasts with that of west Asia. The former has shown greater stability in its urban growth and the URGD has ranged between 2.01 and 3.6. The other region to record moderate to high urban growth was east Asia during the entire second half of the last century. The URGD, taking the five-yearly growth rates as given in World Urbanisation Prospects (WUP) (United Nations 2009) fluctuated between 2.2% and 3.9%, except the period of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when it sunk below 1%, largely because of a slump in China’s urbanisation, just before launching of the reform measures. Southcentral Asia, which includes India, has shown modest to low growth. Here, the rate has risen from 1.1% in the 1950s to 2.2% in the 1980s, after which it has declined.

The temporal fluctuation in urban growth figures in east Asia can largely be attributed to the developments in China, as mentioned above, which accommodates over 86% of the population in the region. India, which accounts for about 70% of the population of south-central Asia and 17% of the world’s population, showed a decline in URGD in recent years. This led to a corresponding d ecline

Table 2: Urban Centres and Their Shares in Total Urban Population in Different Size Categories

World, Region and Size Class 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020 2025
World 5 million or more Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population 18 11.2 24 12.6 28 13 30 12.9 34 13.2 44 14.9 49 15.4 53 15.5 59 16 67 16.6 75 17
1 to 5 million Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population 163 20.9 196 21 223 21 267 22.2 296 22.4 334 22.3 361 22.5 414 23.5 460 23.8 495 23.6 524 23.1
500,000 to 1 million Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population 237 11 258 10.3 297 10.3 328 9.9 365 10 399 9.7 446 9.9 477 9.5 488 8.9 521 8.7 551 8.5
Below 500,000 Percentage of urban population 56.9 56.1 55.7 55.1 54.4 53.1 52.3 51.5 51.3 51.2 51.3
Asia 5 million or more Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population 7 12.4 13 16 16 16.6 18 16.4 20 16.3 26 18.1 28 18 30 17.8 34 18.3 38 18.7 41 18.8
1 to 5 million Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population 73 25.6 84 22.5 98 21.5 125 22.4 145 22.8 166 22.4 182 22.5 216 23.6 245 23.9 274 24.1 291 23.7
500,000 to 1 million Below 500,000 Eastern Asia 5 million or more 1 to 5 million 500,000 to 1 million Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population Percentage of urban population Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population 93 11.5 50.5 5 22.1 42 28.5 53 14.8 110 11.1 50.3 6 21.8 50 28.2 54 12.8 128 10.7 51.2 7 20.8 57 27.4 66 12.9 145 9.9 51.3 7 18.3 72 29 79 12.3 166 9.8 51.1 9 18.7 82 28.7 93 12.4 192 9.8 49.8 11 19.8 92 29.1 110 12.9 223 10.1 49.5 11 18.4 101 29.4 118 12.5 239 9.5 49.1 11 17.4 117 31 124 11.8 247 8.8 49 13 17.8 131 31.5 123 10.7 262 8.3 49 14 17.6 148 32.6 113 9.1 275 8.1 49.4 16 18 158 32.4 108 8.2
Below 500,000 South-Central Asia 5 million or more 1 to 5 million 500,000 to 1 million Percentage of urban population Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population 34.5 2 7.7 14 17.4 28 9.6 37.2 5 14 12 11.3 45 13 38.9 5 13.6 18 13.8 49 12.1 40.3 7 16.9 29 14.7 44 9.2 40.2 7 16.7 35 16.4 48 8.9 38.2 10 20.6 42 15.5 50 8 39.6 11 21.8 49 16.8 63 8.7 39.8 13 23.3 58 17 68 8.1 40 13 22.6 65 17.9 76 8.1 40.6 15 23.5 73 17.5 92 8.3 41.4 15 22.9 79 17.9 105 8.6
Below 500,000 Region and Size Class South-Eastern Asia 5 million or more 1 to 5 million Percentage of urban population Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population 65.3 0 0 9 34.4 61.7 2 13 10 24.8 60.5 3 16.9 10 18.4 59.3 3 15.8 11 17.4 58 3 14 12 16.1 55.9 3 11.9 14 15.4 52.7 4 12.7 13 12.1 51.6 4 11.9 17 13 51.4 5 13.1 21 12.8 50.6 6 14.2 23 12 50.6 7 15.2 22 10.5
500,000 to 1 million Below 500,000 Western Asia 5 million or more 1 to 5 million 500,000 to 1 million Below 500,000 Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population Percentage of urban population Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population Number of agglomerations Percentage of urban population Percentage of urban population 6 5.9 59.7 0 0 8 28.9 6 9.7 61.4 6 4.4 57.8 0 0 12 34.5 5 5.7 59.8 8 4.6 60.1 1 7 13 27.5 5 4.3 61.2 9 4.3 62.5 1 7 13 26.2 13 9.2 57.6 12 4.6 65.3 1 7.1 16 28.2 13 8.7 56 14 4.4 68.2 2 11.4 18 26.4 18 10 52.3 17 4.9 70.3 2 10.9 19 27.6 25 12.8 48.7 23 5.5 69.6 2 10.6 24 31.3 24 11.1 46.9 22 4.6 69.5 3 13.5 28 31 26 10.3 45.1 28 5 68.7 3 13.2 30 31.8 29 10.5 44.5 31 5.3 68.9 3 12.7 32 32.4 31 10.5 44.4

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in urban growth and URGD in the region and whole of Asia. Southeastern Asia stands alone in recording reasonably high URGD during the entire period, the average figure going up from 2.5% during 1950-90 to 3.5% during 1990-2000. The immigration rate of foreign nationals can be seen as high during the 1990s. It may be noted that economic growth in most of the countries6 in the region was not adversely affected, despite the economic crisis during the 1990s which explains their high URGD.

3 Changing Structure of Urbanisation across Cities

The cities and towns in different size categories have been growing at different rates, altering the size composition of urban population. The share of urban centres with population below half a million (BHM) has remained stable at 50% in Asia over the past 30 years while the global figure has come down from a much higher level to this level during this period (Table 2, p 51). The variation in the figure across continents and regions, however, works out to be high. The developed regions like North America, Central America, Australia and New Zealand, for example, record figures much below 50%. Contrastingly, all the regions in Europe report figures between 60% and 70%. One would stipulate that in countries where the process of urban industrial development has a long history, urban structure tends to be more balanced and broad based as compared to the new continents where the process has taken roots in recent times. In case of the latter, development impulses get concentrated in and around a few large cities.

The degree of population concentration in large cities in Asia emerges clearly from the fact that the percentage of people living in cities with five million plus population is 18 as compared to the figure of 15 at the global level. This indeed is a manifestation of top-heavy urbanisation. The 10 million plus Asian cities, however, have recorded no increase in their number and barely a 1.7% population growth per annum, which is much below that of cities between five and ten million people during 2000-07. And yet, the growth rates of the latter – both in number as also population during 1990-2005 are much below that of the previous decades. The growth dynamics seem to have shifted to cities between one and five million. These second level cities are projected to grow faster than the five or 10 million plus cities during 2005-25, as seen in Table 2. These cities are likely to attract much of financial as also industrial capital in future years, resulting in their rapid population growth. Interestingly, the number of one million plus cities has increased from 143 in 1990 to 192 in 2000 and further to 246 in 2005. The number of these cities in China has gone up from 63 in 1990 to 87 in 2000 and 94 in 2005. The other country to record an increase in the number of these cities is India, the figure going up from 23 to 32 and then to 40.

The importance of the BHM cities and towns in the urban system, and their population shares vary significantly across regions within Asia, despite its percentage share for Asia as a whole r emaining stable at 50% over time (Table 2). East Asia, for example, has less than 40% urbanites living here7 while the corresponding figure for south-eastern Asia is over 70%. The shares of southcentral Asia and western Asia lie in between the two limits – at 53% and 49%, respectively.


The direction of change in the size composition of urban p opulation, too, differ considerably across the regions. Southcentral and western Asia report a decline in the share of BHM u rban centres, the percentage figure going down from 65 and 62 in 1975 to 53 and 49 in 2005 respectively. This declining trend is projected to continue in the next couple of decades. One would argue that the thrust of migration would shift from mega cities to the middle and lower order cities. Unfortunately, the towns with population of less than a hundred thousand do not seem to be r eceiving many migrants. Also, the emergence of new towns through rural urban transformation is not adding to the demographic weight of this category.

As opposed to this, east Asia and south-east Asia have registered an increase in the shares of BHM urban centres from 34% to 40% and from 60% to 70%, respectively, during this period (Table 2). It is projected that five million plus cities would not claim larger shares in total/urban population over the next couple of decades in east Asia. This could be because of the change in the strategy of urban industrial development and a policy shift in favour of middle level cities, particularly in China. South-east Asia shows a rise in the share of the BHM towns in the 1980s and 1990s, but stabilises subsequently, possibly because of the economic crisis of the 1990s that had slowed down migration towards the large metropolises. One may argue that the urban structure here has become less top-heavy over time which may have a healthy impact on the urban system in the long run.

The maximum top heaviness in the urban structure is noted in south-central Asia which has over 22% of urban population in the five million plus cities, followed by east Asia for which the figure is 18% (Table 2). The latter has 42% of urban population in cities between half million to five million, compared to 25% in southcentral Asia, which creates a somewhat broader base in the former. Furthermore, the increase in the population share of half million plus cities has been dramatic in south-cental Asia, from 35% to 47% during 1975-2005. A similar increase has been r ecorded in west Asia as well. The only difference is that in the latter, one to five million cities predominate as opposed to 10 m illion plus cities in the former. South-central Asia may therefore be considered to be slightly more unbalanced compared to even west Asia.

It is a matter of anxiety that cities at the third level, with population between half to a million, that had witnessed acceleration in growth during 1990-2005, would report low growth in future years. More importantly, the towns at the lowest end of the urban hierarchy, which have recorded low population growth throughout the period under consideration,8 would experience growth much below that of the million plus cities in the next couple of decades. One would argue that not only is the population growth in these towns low, there has not been any reasonable increase in their number through RU transformation.9 This emerges as a major area of concern for the continent in the context of balanced regional development.

4 Decomposition of Urban Growth and Estimation of Internal Migration

Studies on internal migration are seriously constrained by the fact that no international organisation systematically collects or tabulates even the basic demographic information on internal

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migration in a cross-sectionally and temporally comparable manner. Whether this is because of the low priority attached to it or difficulties in gathering the information due to inherent reporting bias, the outcome has tragically been that the subject has received little importance in research agenda and policymaking. Despite the number of persons moving within the countries being much larger than any other type of movement in Asia, it has not figured in “mainstream” reports on development, such as the Human Development or the World Development Report. There has been an upsurge of interest in international migration and of late, an enormous amount of literature has come up. And yet, migration within countries, particularly that linked to search for livelihood, has failed to motivate the researchers and p olicymakers to generate robust data sets and undertake rigorous empirical studies, which may be held responsible for the lack of integration of spatial mobility of labour with mainstream development economics.

The data problems on mobility of persons have been quite constraining in research and yet this does not explain the continued lack of attention to this phenomenon over the years (Haan 2005). Information available from national statistical agencies in most Asian countries are indeed inadequate in capturing temporary movements. Consequently, the scholars working on internal mobility have chosen to work with field data. Micro level studies focused on a region, a sector or an issue, understandably, have limitations in putting forward a macro perspective. Researchers nonetheless have attempted to combine the national statistics with information and impressions gathered through field studies for developing a macro perspective on migration and its correlates, which have often turned out to be a bit naïve and even dangerous. Governmental interest in internal migration, surfacing sporadically, has to a great extent been politically driven – more often guided by an alarmist framework. Understandably, this has led to measures to control inflow of people for security concerns or to reduce pressure on limited amenities in the destination regions/cities. In the absence of rigorous data on the subject, this negative perspective has often guided not only the r esearch framework but also data generation process and e mpirical findings.

Researchers regretting the inadequacies in the official statistical system10 and non-comparability of information collected through micro studies have surprisingly come around to the conclusion that internal migration within Asian countries is high and increasing over time. Probing data availability in some detail and overviewing the research studies in four Asian countries – India, China, Indonesia and Vietnam, Deshingkar (2006) argues that “there is persuasive evidence from locations across Asia that population mobility has increased at an unprecedented rate in the last two decades”, the proposition getting endorsement of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) (2006) as well. The studies on Vietnam (Guest 1998; Djamba et al 1999) underline the problem of seasonal and temporary migrants into urban areas and rapidly industrialising zones that are not captured in the census. The scholars, nonetheless, are happy to stipulate that “given the current development patterns and future projections on u rbanisation, the growth of manufacturing and agricultural

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d evelopment, it is very likely that internal migration, both temporary and permanent, will persist and grow”. A similar perspective dominates the urban development scene in Pakistan despite research studies revealing that that there are “blind spots in the data” and that rural populations are less able to fill the demand in urban labour markets” resulting in “a reduction in out-migration from rural areas” (Rolfe 2008).

4.1 Exploring an Unfounded Alarmist Perspective

The alarmist perspective regarding internal migration could possibly be attributed to the projection of urban population made by the Population Division of the United Nations (UNPD 2005; 2009) and other national and international agencies. These are distinctly on a higher side. The policy perspective of controlling RU migration and slowing down the growth of large cities has motivated administrators and policymakers to readily accept such propositions as these provide a rationale for imposing restrictions on population mobility. The opposition to the anti migration initiatives, too, have been guided by humanistic appeal, anecdotal evidences, and mobilisation by media or non-governmental

o rganisation (NGO) groups around specific issues, rather than by strong empirical evidence.

Given the data related problems, a few researchers11 have a ttempted to estimate the number of RU migrants through i ndirect methods, using the population figures from population census. Based on a simple identity, the incremental urban p opulation during a decade has been decomposed into four s egments: (a) natural increase, (b) new towns less declassified towns, (c) merging of towns and jurisdictional changes in a gglomerations, and (d) RU migration. In the absence of reliable data, the number in the last category can be estimated as a residual factor, which should be free from the bias of under-reporting. In the I ndian case, the contribution of RU migration in total incremental urban population through this framework has been estimated as 21% during the 1990s. It should be possible to use this framework for working out the figures for all countries for which the migration data are suspects. Importantly, in the Indian case, this figure works out to be almost identical to that of lifetime migrants, reported in the population Census of 2001.

It is crucial to examine the proposition that RU migration has accelerated over the recent decades in the Asian countries, particularly during the 1990s. The decline in the rate of growth in urban population in most of these countries understandably is due to decline in natural growth. One can, however, isolate the impact of this natural growth by focusing on URGD, assuming that the decline in rural and urban areas would be similar in magnitude. Now, it may be seen in Table 1 that URGD has gone down for Asia at the macro level as also in 36 out of 50 countries12 during the 1990s compared to the preceding two decades. The deceleration in urban growth must, therefore, be explained in terms of factors other than natural growth in population.

Can the deceleration in the pace of urbanisation be attributed to the second factor – growth dynamics becoming weak at the lower category of settlements, particularly slowing down of RU transformation, as globalisation tends to promote growth in large cities? It is difficult to answer this question with definite evidence as information on small towns is not available from any international source. Understandably, the definition of urban centres varies across countries, which would affect the data base for smaller towns, clouding the understanding of classification/ declassification and RU transformation. In the absence of the firm and comparable data at the country level, it would be worthwhile to tie up fragmented evidence from different regions and speculate on the trend of this factor, based on the proposed policies of government intervention.

The regional strategies followed in several Asian countries to contain metropolitan expansion include development of satellite towns. Without trying to be exhaustive, certain country/city specific cases may be cited in this context. In case of Seoul, 10 satellite towns were established, which absorbed most of the lowskilled and poorly educated youth away from the metropolis (Yeung 1986). Similar programmes have been adopted in and around other metro cities in most east Asian countries. The citystates of Hong Kong and Singapore, too, have used satellite towns to decentralise population and economic activities from congested core areas since the early 1960s, although on a smaller scale. Attempts to redistribute population away from primate c ities of Bangkok and Jakarta have also had considerable success (Yeung 1995). Even in less developed countries such as Mongolia and Cambodia, the national strategies have focused on developing secondary cities to act as “growth poles”. In fact, “growth centre approach” happens to be a part of the urbanisation strategies in the entire south-east region.

India has avowedly tried to promote the growth of small and medium towns through infrastructural provisions and incentives to private entrepreneurs. Besides, there have been regional plans, launched for major metropolises with the objective of diverting migrants to peripheral townships. In China, the thrust on a ccelerated urbanisation remains in force (Fan 2008) but the emphasis in the Eleventh Five-Year Plan has shifted to small and m edium towns (urban areas with 50,000-2,50,000 population) that are known as “workhorses” of Chinese urbanisation. Programmes have also been launched in west Asia for controlling excessive concentration in large cities and diverting investments and p rospective migrants into “neighbouring small towns and inter mediate cities, supplemented by creation of new towns” (Sheikh 2007).

Understandably, several new towns have emerged on the u rban scene in Asia, thanks to such endeavours. Given the policy of globalisation and thrust on global cities, most of these towns, however, have come up around the metropolitan cities. While the smaller towns, particularly those in remote areas at a distance from the major metropolises, have not attracted national and global investors, the latter have sought locations in close proximity of the first and second order cities. This has led to the emergence and rapid growth of new towns in the immediate hinterland of large cities. It may, therefore, be erroneous to hold that the contribution of new towns in incremental urban population would go down significantly in coming years.

Overviewing the process of urbanisation in Asia, Webster (2004) underlines the importance of the third component of u rban growth – peripheral development around metro cities, r esulting in the expansion of their boundaries, as noted above.

He argues that peri-urban areas in the hinterland have experienced rapid economic growth as that is the easiest environment in which new communities and manufacturing structures can be built, absorbing large number of migrants. In addition, “large segments of the existing poor living in urban cores are being pushed to the periphery by land market forces or drawn there by employment opportunities”. Informal activities of the poor along with other pollutant industries are being shifted out to the “degenerated periphery”. All these have led to the expansion in the boundaries of agglomerations and merging of old and new towns with the central city. This phenomenon has become conspicuous around the global cities in China, India and in many other countries in this continent. Much of urbanisation in Indonesia is noted to be occurring through outward spread of large cities enveloping rural communities because of the extremely high rural densities. This has been noted to be an important factor in the rice growing areas of Vietnam and Thailand as well (Webster 2004). In case of Seoul, most of the environmentally hazardous industries are getting relocated in its periphery. Istanbul, too, has serious problems of degenerated periphery largely because of in- migration of people from the south-east of Turkey, particularly Anatolia, searching for employment. There seems to be thus no reason why the expansion of city boundaries, the third component in the decomposition model, would have declined in the recent past or would do so in the near future.

4.2 Declining Rural-Urban Migration: A Policy Consequence

Based on the overview, it would be difficult to attribute the fall in URGD during the 1990s to the declining contribution of new towns or that of expansion in urban boundaries. The explanation then could possibly be sought in terms of a decline in RU migration. The data available on migration from a few of the large countries can be examined for this purpose. One may begin by discussing internal migration in China, which is the most discussed and disputed subject among quantitative demographers. The fourth population census of China which considers persons who have stayed in the enumeration areas for more than one year during the period from 1 July 1985 to 1 July 1990 as migrants, reports their number to be 34 million in 1990 while the National Population Sample Survey covering the period during 1990-95, reports the figure to be only 36 million in 1995, implying an a nnual growth of migrants by 1.1% only. Importantly, a survey conducted by the State Family Planning Commission in 1992 and a study by the ODI (2006) suggest the migration rate to be much higher. Understandably, the information from these sources do not tally, reflecting unresolved conceptual and methodological issues and non-comparability of data. The number of migrant r ural workers was reported to be 130 million as per the second agriculture census conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics, which was 60 million more than that reported a decade earlier, giving an annual growth rate over 7%. Given these widely different figures, one cannot be definitive that migration would accelerate in future years, as there “is no consistent criterion for collecting data” on mobile population who continue to remain “statistically invisible” (Fang 2000).

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The government policies and programmes to strengthen the rural economy are likely to slow down RU migration. The state council has issued a policy document in 2008 vowing to set up a permanent mechanism for closing urban-rural gaps. The government has boosted investment in the countryside, slashed fees and taxes for farmers, rolled out favourable medical care schemes and strengthened protection of farmers’ land rights. As per Chen Xiwen, the director of the office of the central leading group on rural work, the central government is raising its rural budget by about a third compared to that of last year. Significantly, last year’s budget too represented a record-high increase of 17% over the previous year. Correspondingly, the local governments in cities have adopted policies that aim at reducing competition from rural migrant workers through a series of discriminatory policies. The Bureau release in February 2008 reveals that the number of rural people engaged in agriculture shrank by more than 80 million between 1996 and 2006. Further, 70.8% of rural workers were engaged in some type of agriculture at the end of 2006 which is 5 percentage points less than that of 1996. On the other hand, a nationwide survey had reported the floating population to have gone up from 70 million in 1993 to 140 million in 2003 (Chan and Hu 2003). Westendoff (2008) estimates the size of the floating population in the range of 150-200 million. The majority of these migrants are circular migrants who retain strong links with their rural family.13 Given all these, one may hold that while sectoral diversification will shift workers from agriculture to i ndustries and business, the state would not allow large-scale i mmigration for avoiding pressure on urban infrastructures and social security system. These people would then shuttle between rural and urban areas and consequently, the share of migrants in incremental urban population will not go up significantly.

Indonesia, like China, has policies restricting internal migration, though the system is less rigid. The government here has taken several measures to discourage the prospective migrants from entering the large cities and redirect them to rural areas or provinces which have labour shortages (Munir 2001). Interestingly, a field study by Hugo has noted widespread prevalence of circular migration and commutation from rural to urban areas, as in the case of China, as early as in the 1970s, which slowed down permanent migration. A resurvey conducted in 1992-93 further confirms this kind of mobility since only 20% of households reported dependence on agriculture for their livelihood (Hugo 2003). A comprehensive longitudinal study (Collier et al 1993) of 37 villages in Java carried out over the period 1967-91 further corroborates this finding. Besides, many city level initiatives have made it difficult for the migrants to become legal residents. For example, in Jakarta,14 under the “closed city” policy, migrants are required to show evidence of employment and housing for obtaining a residence permit. Reducing Jakarta’s population growth has been taken up as a national goal and the government is desperately trying to promote reverse migration.

Vietnam had an elaborate and complex system of controlling migration flows, especially to large cities, through migration policies and household registration system (ho khau), similar to that of China which made spontaneous migration a costly affair (Anh 2003). Although the economic reform measures (Doi Moi)

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officially launched in 1986 have abolished much of that, giving increased economic opportunities and avenues for mobility to r ural labour (Dang 1999), the apprehension of rural poor flooding the cities has resulted in several policy initiatives to control m igration. In view of the limited success of these initiatives, a disincentive system has been introduced under which a person not registered in the district of birth is entitled to all government facilities (Anh 2003).

The data on migration from rural to urban areas in India too has serious problems of comparability. The scope and coverage of data compilation have varied significantly from one census to the other and over different rounds of the National Sample Survey (NSS). The data problems pertain not only to the distribution of migrants across different streams within and across the districts and states, due to not-too-infrequent reorganisation of state and district boundaries, but also their duration of stay in the city. Despite these problems, however, the data on the total number of migrants are fairly robust and comparable over time (Kundu 2009) and reveal that the percentage of rural migrants in urban areas arriving during 1991-2001 is marginally less than that noted in the previous decade. This would be in line with the proposition of increasing immobility of the Indian population (Kundu 2006). One may add that even the percentage of lifetime migrants, which in 2001 was slightly above that of 1991, is significantly below that of 1961 and 1971. The data from NSS too, confirm the declining trend of migration in urban centres when one considers the period from 1983 to 1999-2000. The general conclusion, thus, emerges unmistakably that RU mobility in India, particularly of men, which is often linked to the strategy of seeking livelihood (as opposed to family-linked migration for women), has gone down systematically over the past few decades.15 This can be attributed to the process of urbanisation under globalisation, making the cities unaffordable to the poor, besides the regular slum clearance programmes whereby development authorities or municipal corporations bulldoze unauthorised structures, often at the initiative of elite and middle class-based resident associations. Thus, it is not so much the reactionary policies of the state that are restricting migration in India. The functioning of the market for land and basic services, combined with a sense of “otherness” among urbanites, has become the major barrier.

Based on evidence available from the existing literature, as a ttempted above, there is no reason to believe that RU migration accelerated or that it makes a larger contribution to urban growth in Asian countries. There have been specific years, regions and cities wherein high in-migration is recorded but these do not provide a basis for macro-level generalisation. The perspective of rapid and unprecedented RU migration is linked more to the elitist apprehension of urban collapse due to infrastructure deficiencies, legitimisation of the harsh initiatives for evicting slums, or deterring future migrants.

5 Historical Context of Urbanisation and Migration

The last few decades of the 20th century emerged as exhilarating for the urbanisation process in modern history in more than one sense. This period is marked by the culmination of a prolonged cold war into the disintegration of the “second world” and leaving many smaller countries in the block completely disoriented and disillusioned. The collapse of the Soviet system has also been associated with the undermining of the importance of institutions at international levels and a curtailment of state’s welfare

o riented interventions. It would, therefore, be important to look at the declining trend of migration and urbanisation, not merely as an outcome of individual decision-making based on economic rationality, characterising the Harris-Todaro (1970) model, but in the context of wider social, political and economic change.

Migration needs to be viewed not as a dependent but largely an independent variable16 since many of the countries, regions and their citizens have developed a negative attitude towards inmigrants, despite benefiting from the supply of low cost labour through them. This attitude has got reinforced through growing regionalism and concerns about “foreigners” interfering in local political process, threatening internal socio-economic stability, having an adverse impact on culture, norms and values, etc. Economic opportunities at the micro level, therefore, may not be the key determinants of internal (also international) migration since it is state policies and social environment that currently determine whether people would be allowed to leave their place of origin and be welcomed at their destinations. While the role of the individual’s decision cannot be dismissed, the latter is not guided purely by economic benefits accruing to the person. This perspective would get a theoretical underpinning from the security/stability framework (SSF), as expounded by Myron Weiner (1990).

It is important to look at the changing migration streams in Asian countries in reference to the historical legacy of both the colonial and the pre-colonial era. Globalisation, which is signified by the movement of capital across national borders, is not a new phenomenon in Asia. Since the 16th century, the Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, English, French and more recently the Japanese17 have been important players in the regional arena. The logic of surplus generation within the colonial framework had made deployment of workforce from one part of the empire to another relatively easy in the early decades of the last century.18 It is in the colonies where plantation and mining activities came up in a big way, that labourers were recruited, from outside as well as inside their erstwhile political boundaries. Transmigration was also carried out in an effort to remove the potential for political instability.19 While colonisation made trans-border or even transoceanic migration of population possible, it also paradoxically led to the creation of national and regional identities, which prompted the independent nations at a later period to tighten their policy regimes to control migration. For example, the pre-colonial migration of population in the south-central Asia or east Asia had completely different dynamics than noted during the colonisation process or in more recent years.

Importantly, the east and west Asian countries witnessed an induced process of urbanisation in the post-war phase during the cold war period, initiated largely by the developed countries in the west, particularly the United States. The trend and pattern of urbanisation here was very different from the model of urban development, backed by indigenous industrialisation and modernisation, as propagated by the neoclassical economists. It is argued that this process of urbanisation could not have continued for long which explains the deceleration in urban growth in the 1990s. The birth of the Association of South-East Asian Nations is often attributed to the western apprehension about the political orientation of east Asian countries.20 I ndeed, the collapse of the overarching Soviet system in east and central Asia could be behind the dilution of political interest of the western powers to strengthen capitalistic development process in the two regions. Furthermore, with the socialistic goals of common good becoming illusory in the era of globalisation, racial and regional prejudices came up in the forefront resulting in tensions and conflicts, making the environment for the migrant population in cities and towns inhospitable. It is, thus, not a coincidence that the end of the cold war is associated with deceleration in the rates of urbanisation and internal migration in several Asian countries.

Economic disparities existing and accentuated in the process of restructuring of global capitalism forced the skilled labour in less developed regions to migrate not only to developed countries but also to a few large cities within the country. Many of the governments encouraged and supported international and inter-regional migration of workers with a view to reduce unemployment in backward areas as also to enable the latter to increase their economic well-being through remittances. The cities and developed regions, however, resented the large-scale influx of people and adopted restrictive measures to avoid problems of social unrest and increased pressure on infrastructure. Their perceptions of the problems were often based on political and security considerations than economic efficiency. Ethnic and racial factors within and across the countries in Asia have in recent years created serious labour market tensions constraining movement of people, despite growing disparities in the levels of economic development.

The thesis of over-urbanisation and the alarmist view on ruralurban migration have dictated policy perspective in many countries in Asia. This is a carry-over from the colonial period. Unfortunately, this has weighed down heavily on demographers and urban planners in making projections of urban population. The view received empirical backing of sorts from the acceleration in urban growth during the late 1970s and 1980s. Notwithstanding the fact that the rate declined subsequently, most of the official projections of urban population for Asia have been made under the shadow of this thesis and have consequently erred on the higher side.

The method for projecting the urban population by the UNPD for less developed countries is based on a simple logistic model. By focusing on the trends in URGD, it tries to separate out the i mpact of population growth and capture the dynamics of internal migration, as noted above. Its basic assumption is that the countries with less than half the population living, in urban centres, would experience an increase in their URGD till that limit of urbanisation is reached.21 It would be important to analytically examine the empirical validity of this assumption and its developmental implications as also of the modifications that have been proposed in the model to deal with its lacunae. Unfortunately, the model, which in a way incorporates the apprehension of h yper-urbanisation in its projections, was adopted by several other international agencies as also national governments,

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w ithout any rigorous examination during the 1970s and 1980s. Given the discrepancies between the projected and actual values, the UNPD subsequently came up with a procedure for estimating the URGD based on a regression equation (estimate from 113 countries), which allowed it to decline even before attaining the 50% level. However, the gaps between the projected and actual figures, obtained through this alternate model, still worked out to be high. This made the UNPD propose yet another modification, allowing the actual URGD for the latest period to be the starting point which incrementally is stipulated to move towards the normative value within a time frame.

The variations in URGD and growth rates of urban population across regions and countries in Asia cannot be explained in terms of the level of urbanisation. Contrary to the stipulations of the model and its variants, these depend on a host of region and country specific factors. In most countries, the rates are noted to be declining sharply much more than stipulated in the models. Unfortunately, the latter have no provision for bringing in the country specific socio-economic factors as explanatory variables within the predictive framework.

Are there then enough grounds for projecting Asia to record the highest URGD during 2000-30 (Table 1), the rate going up systematically after 2015, as has been done by the UNPD? The question becomes critical because the present URGD works out to be less than that of several continents, the figure computed by excluding China being less than that of the world. More particularly, there has been a significant decline in this during the past decade and a half. It would be extremely important to question the empirical basis of this “over ambitious” and optimistic urban scenario and of the view that Asia would experience unprecedented migration and urban growth,22 much higher than other continents in future years.

6 Reflections on the Urbanisation Experience in Asia

Based on an overview of the theoretical and empirical literature on the subject as also the statistical analysis carried out in the study, one would tend to agree with Ellerman (2003) that the current policy perspective happens to be somewhat overoptimistic regarding the impact of migration and urbanisation on development, although the policy debate on their mutual interdependencies remains “unsettled”. This was the conclusion also arrived at by Sorensen et al (2003) analysing more recent studies on the subject (Papademetriou and Martin 1991; Appleyard 1991; Sorensen et al 2003).

A large majority of the countries belonging to different geographical regions of Asia have recorded deceleration in urban growth and migration in recent years that cannot be fully explained in terms of decline in natural growth, declassification of towns and definitional or boundary adjustment factors. One can postulate a thesis of exclusionary urban growth, stipulating that the negative policy perspective on migration and increased unaffordability of land and basic amenities by the rural poor have led to deceleration in urban growth. Asia thus would not go the way of Latin America as also many African countries in terms of its model of urbanisation.

The impetus of urban growth in Asia has shifted from large metropolises, from five million plus cities, to those having population between one and five million or even less. Despite this downward shift of urban dynamics, a large number of small and medium towns with less than one hundred thousand population have reported economic stagnation and deceleration in population growth in a majority of Asian countries. The emergence of new towns has been few and far between, resulting in top heavy urbanisation, except in south-east Asia.

Several countries have launched programmes for improving governance and infrastructural facilities in a few large cities, attracting private investors from within as well as outside the country. Land for them has been made available through the market as also state supported schemes which have pushed out squatter settlements and several informal sector businesses, along with large pollutant industries to the city peripheries, which have poor quality of micro environment. The income level and quality of basic amenities in these cities, as a result, has gone up but that has been associated with an increased intra-city disparity and creation of degenerated periphery.

Several governments have taken major initiatives to promote rural development, creating satellite towns for slowing down RU migration and reducing pressure on infrastructure, particularly in the globalising cities. These regional development measures, in a sense, have been complementary to the city-level interventions that have encouraged only selective migration into central areas and “sanitisation of the cities”. All this questions the proposition that the urban dynamics would shift to Asia in the next few decades, notwithstanding the magnitude of absolute figures of increment due to pure demographic weight of the continent.

The pace of urbanisation in the next few decades is likely to be rapid only in the less urbanised and less developed countries. The relatively developed and larger countries in the continent would limit migration in order to have more orderly urbanisation and well governed cities, reflecting “elite capture” of the process of urbanisation. This would be in sharp contrast with the experience of the Latin American countries. The governments in many Asian countries are likely to push reform measures in land, capital and labour market, giving greater freedom to global and national actors. This would manifest in policies and programmes adopted by the state and city governments to restrict the entry of poor and unskilled migrants from rural areas, strengthening the process of exclusionary urban growth.

Notes which is not very high as per the historical urban expansion is taking place in those cities
1 As per this projected figure (United Nations 2005), the implicit annual growth rate of urban population works out to be 2.3% per annum. United Nations (2007) predicts that urban population would double between 2007 and 2050. This 2 records. “The World’s poor once huddled largely in rural areas. In the modern world they have gravitated to the cities” (Piel 1997). In a similar vein Anna Tibbaijuka, executive director UN-HABITAT, in her 3 least equipped to negotiate the urban transition – the secondary cities of Africa and Asia. As a result we are witnessing the urbanisation of poverty”. “This phenomenon of such rapid urbanisation is indeed unprecedented and it has changed human
a pparently impressive urban scenario implies that keynote address at the opening ceremony of the geography beyond recognition”, Rakesh Mohan
the growth rate would be only 1.6% per annum, FIG Working Week 2008 argues that “95% of this and Dasgupta (2005).

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4 This event “is a consequence of rapid urbanisation in the last decades, especially in less developed regions” United Nations (2008).

5 Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Cyprus, Turkey and Lebanon may be mentioned as illustrative cases.

6 Indonesia, Thailand and Timor-Leste are the exceptions. Indonesia did not even record a high rate of international migration during the 1990s.

7 This can be explained in terms of the rapid growth in the number and population in large cities in C hina occurring as a result of the government’s emphasis on urban development at higher end after 1949, and the reform measures adopted since mid1970s. Understandably, the 22 most populous cities had a total of 47.5 million people or about 12% of the country’s total urban population in 1985.

8 A recent study (Webster 2004) focusing on South East Asian countries, particularly China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam and Mongolia reports the annual population growth rate in many of the small towns as very low and even negative. In case of Mongolia, the rate has been noted to be negative, “with virtually all dynamism focusing on Ulaan Baatar”. In Philippines, only natural growth and migration have been considered as factors behind urban growth with exclusion of the contribution of new towns.

9 In India, these towns are finding it difficult to finance any of their development projects through internal resources or borrowings from the capital market in the era of globalisation. The fiscal discipline imposed by the government, credit rating agencies and other financial intermediaries, make it impossible for these even to maintain the level of services. As a consequence, the absolute number of these (Census) towns have gone down in 2001, the first time in the century.

10 Rogaly et al (2001) hold that while in Vietnam and China, the formal registration system is likely to miss out migrants employed in the grey economy, in India where such registration system does not exist, short duration rural-rural migration is likely to be under-recorded.

11 East West Centre, Kundu (2003).

12 If the south-east Asian region (with 11 countries) is excluded, the number goes down to 25 only.

13 Besides these, researchers have projected as early as 1994, that China had a surplus of approximately 200 million agricultural workers, and the number was expected to increase to 300 million in the early 21st century. Current projections suggest that between 12 and 13 million migrants will move to u rban areas each year over the next two decades. This will be over and above the existing 103 million urban migrants, as officially reported (Fang 2000).

14 Indonesian government had declared Jakarta a special metropolitan district in 1966, which had attracted a huge inflow of population, resulting in Jakarta urban agglomeration growing into the adjacent province of West Java, known as Jabotabek. The population of Jabotabek region was about 25 million in 2000 despite the government adopting strong measures to control the growth of population, launched in early 1970s by prohib

iting the entry of unemployed migrants.

15 In case of women, the percentage of migrants has gone up marginally as this is determined by sociocultural factors that respond slowly with time.

16 This argument finds support in the works of Weiner (1990).

17 During the Japanese occupation (1942-44), Indonesian workers were forcefully sent to Singapore and Thailand to be used in the construction of railroads and airports (Kurosawa 1993).

18 Tirtosudarmo (1997) holds that the geographical stretch for labour migration was very extensive before the advent of colonialism, particularly in south-east Asia, “as there were no rigid national state borders as is the case today”.

19 The Dutch, for example, recruited people from the island of Java during the colonial period to work as plantation workers in the coastal areas of East Sumatra, in New Caledonia in the south


P acific, and also in Vietnam (see Breman 1997; Suparlan 1995; Adam 1994).

20 Tirtosudarmo (1997) believes that the fall of Soekarno and the collapse of Indonesian Communist Party in 1965 provided the momentum for the west to influence the political reorientation of Indonesia, which occupies a unique geopolitical p osition in Asia.

21 In case of Asia, for example, the URGD has been taken to be increasing consistently from 2.26 during 2005-15 to 2.46 during 2025-30 (Table 1) and in fact even beyond that.

22 UN Habitat report for 2008-09 informs of the phenomenon of shrinkage of cities resulting in a loss of 13 million people in 143 global cities during 1990-2000, about 70% of which is confined to Asian cities. The Chinese cities, that have been projected by the UNPD to maintain their population growth rates, are worst affected, accounting for about 75% of this population loss in Asia, as per this report. Furthermore, the UNPD has to revise downwards the projections of urban population for Asia and Asian cities in its successive WUPs (United Nations 2005 and 2009).


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