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Economic and Social Implication of Rural Migration and Urbanization

Economic and Social Implication of Rural Migration and Urbanization

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Martin Chun Yat Li. Originally submitted for China’s Economic Reform and Its Social and Political Implications at University of California, Berkeley, with lecturer Yan Zhang in the category of Social Studies
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Martin Chun Yat Li. Originally submitted for China’s Economic Reform and Its Social and Political Implications at University of California, Berkeley, with lecturer Yan Zhang in the category of Social Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
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Economic and Social Implication of Rural Migration and Urbanization
Urbanization is an essential step for every single city in the World. Without the processof urbanization, the city will stay at a stage that all resources are not sustainable to allpopulation. As United Nations reports,
half of the world’s population wil
l live in urbanarea in 2008 while the percentage of urban population will increase steadily.
1
China, asone of the most fast-growing countries, is experiencing urbanization too. In 2011, thetotal urban population in China exceeded the rural population and recorded 691 millionpeople (51.3%) living in urban, rising from 26% in 1990.
2
Furthermore, to predictions,nearly 70% of Chinese population will live in urban by the year of 2035. So urbanizationis on the way. Massive of construction of cities and metropolis are unavoidable. Fromthe experiences In Western countries in 18
th
century, we may expect some sorts of difficulties. Combined with the unique demographic, economic and governmentalsituation in China, we will examine more about the major concerns and challengesspecifically in the most populated city in China, Shanghai.Starting from the typical challenges faced by cities in developing countries, ProfessorDowall, from College of Environmental Design in University of California at Berkeley,lists the following after observations from different cities in the world, including rapidgrowth, limited infrastructure, degraded environments, inadequate infrastructure toprovide needed services, lack of financial resources to invest in growth, weak institutional capacity to plan and implementation, corruption, lack of adequate housingand unclear land titles and complex land management.After we have a brief introduction to the general problem of urbanization in developingcountries, we will scope out more the unique issues about Shanghai. First and theforemost, the demographical concern, according to Shanghai Bureau of Statistics
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, about 23 million people are living in Shanghai, a growth of almost 38% from 16 millions inyear of 2000. However, the growth is not contributed by the natural growth rate due tothe extremely low fertility rate, 0.7
4
. More than 39% of the population are long-termmigrants, and mostly are from rural areas. This stunning figure is comparable to thesituation in Los Angeles between 1920 and 1930, as Warren Thornthwaite describes asthe largest internal migration in the history of the American people.
5
 History repeats, migration happened and is happening, but why? As we mentionedbefore, in the w
orld’s general picture, urban population breakevens the rural population
in 2008 and steadily increases over time. We can analyze the phenomenon in twodifferent Economics aspects- Push and Pull. Economic push factors means the ruralenvironment is not favoring the rural residents, including low productivity,technological changes and climate changes. In most of the rural areas in China, theysustain their lives by farming. The rapid development in technology of farmingtechniques lowers their productivity. Plus the instability of climate change every year,
1
 
United Nations Population Division, “World Urbanization Prospects”, 
http://esa.un.org/unup/. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
2
National Bureau of Statistic of China,
China's Total Population and Structural Changes in 2011,
Last modified Jan 20, 2012. 
3
 
Shanghai Statistic Bureau. “Basic Statistics on National Population Census”
4
Shanhai Daily,
Concern over Shanghai having lowest birth rate,
Last modified Apr 27, 2012.
5
Martin Wachs.
“Autos, Transit, and the Spra
w
l of Los Angeles: The 1920s”
(Los Angeles: Graduate Schoolof Architecture and Urban Planning, University of California, Los Angeles, 1983),1-46.
 
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living in rural becomes very hard. These reasons
will “push” them to think about migrating into city. On the other hand, city itself gives a very strong “pull” temptation to
rural population. Considering the growth in manufacturing industry, higher wages,better infrastructures, stable employment or maybe kinship networks, rural residentshave extra reason to move. From a documentary filmed by Hong Kong TelevisionBroadcast Limited, the interviewees in rural villages always wish to move to urban city,like Shanghai, Guangdong and Beijing because they want a better life for themselves,and also their next generation. They wish to have a easy and cheap access to clean waterand let their children to study in school without walking 4 hours roundtrip to schoolevery day. It generally believes that there are more opportunities happening in city aswell. Taking Shanghai Expo 2010 as an example, Shanghai demands a lot labor toconstruct new buildings and infrastructures, and service industries during the Expo.Rural population will be attracted to the ongoing opportunities and decide to migrate toShanghai.Migration should result in a win-win situation, both rural population and the city willbenefit from the process migration. Rural population will have a better living conditionwhile fulfilling the demand of population in city because of the extremely low fertility.However, in reality, it turns out that there are more implications in social and economicaspects. In the following part, we will examine the major concerns about migration andurbanization.First, migration and urbanization worsens the situation of unbalanced distribution of Economic development. Shanghai is a most fast-growing city, not only in term of size of population, but also in GDP per capita. According to the National Bureau Statistic in2009, the GDP per capita in Shanghai is USD 11,361, with a growth of 8.2%. Shanghaicontributes a lot to the
whole China’s economy, compared to the overall GDP per capita
in China (USD 3678 in the same year). The soar of economic growth is amazing to localdevelopment, but brings two major concerns meanwhile
unbalanced incomedistribution and unfair welfare distribution.We can trace back to primary reasons of the issue of unbalanced income distribution-internal migration. Huge portion of Shanghai population are migrants from otherprovinces. 79% of them are from rural areas.
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They are likely to have low educationattainment (received very limited education in villages or some are not able to speak standard Mandarin), limited experiences in urban industries (like service and retailindustries instead of farming and agriculture) and level of civilization. They move to theurban and wish to have a better living standard (as we have elaborated in previoussections) but they failed to meet the very minimum requirements of job. They end upworking in less-education-required jobs and getting low wages. It turns out that theirnext generations are not able to receive enough education (maybe due to unaffordabletuition and the
Hukou
system, which we will express more later). Kids repeat the cycleas their parents and eventually, in macro view, turns to be polarization of income.This social issue is well-addressed by many scholars and different organizationspreviously. However, what is the reason the local government is not able to providehelps? It will bring us to the second concern, the unfair welfare distribution. Under the
Hukou
system, a person without a proper
Hukou
, he will be restricted to study, work 
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上海統計
, “
外省市来沪常住人口发展现状及特征
 
 
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and different social welfare programs. They desperately need help from government but the system does not allow. They eventually cause more social issues to the society.According to John Levy in his book, they will be an extra burden to the society becausethe history shows the correlation between uncovered poor groups and the followingsocial problems: homelessness, mental illness, involvement with drugs or alcohol,unemployment and family breakup.
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 Without a shadow of doubt, no single local governments will prefer poor people in theircity. As we know, local governments receive their revenue from economic activities andpay the cost of social welfare programs, like sponsoring public school system, housingsystem and etc. Less poor population means more profits to local government. So,government bodies will try to get rid of the poor. This process can be found in Shanghaias well. Shanghai Expo 2010 was the greatest and the most visited Expo ever.
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Morethan 45 billion RMB has been invested. In order to free lands to build new pavilions andother related infrastructures, local government needed to relocate different villages andfactories to other areas. The redevelopment process squeezed poor people to outerzones. Expo example may be a one-time event, but consider about the ongoingdevelopment of 
Pudong
area.
Pudong
area is the most prosperous area in Shanghai.Many regional headquarters of international companies are located there.
Pudong
wasnot that prosperous before. There is a old saying,
宁可在浦西买张床,不要在浦东买 套房 
(English translation: Rather to purchase a bed in
Puxi
than purchase a flat in
Pudong
). It shows that 
Pudong
area was very affordable and not preferred by thewealthy. Shanghai government remodeled
Pudong
area and now it becomes the most expensive area in Shanghai. The redevelopment of 
Pudong
area pushed the livingstandard to another peak. The original residents or small companies around that areaare no longer affordable to live there. The redevelopment process make them have nochoice but move away from the city center or even move to rural area and surrounding
cities. This phenomenon is illustrated by Fulton in the book, “[redevelopment] is
nothing less than a conspiracy between big government and big business to squeeze out 
the little guy.”
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 We can also discover the problem in a subtle way. Shanghai is one of the most prosperous transportation hubs. The railroad system connection is well-developed. Thenetwork spreads over the whole Mainland China, including Hong Kong SpecialAdministrative Region and other nations, like Russia, Mongolia, Vietnam and NorthKorea. Originally, train was the cheapest and the most common way to transport migrants between working cities and hometowns. But slow cheap train services werereplaced by the rapid development of high-speed train system. With generous fundingfrom the Chinese government's economic stimulus program, 17,000 km (11,000 mi) of high-speed lines are now under construction.
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Fast trains benefits the economy byefficiency and easier communication between cities and nations. This is actually a mute
process to squeeze out those “little guy”
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because the redevelopment makes the traintickets no longer affordable to grassroots.
7
 
John M. Levy, “Social Issue,” Contemporary Urban Planning, Pearson Education, 2011.
 
8
"Shanghai World Expo wins worldwide applause". Xinhua. Last modified Oct 31 2010.
9
William Fulton,
Paul Shigley, “
Guide to California Planning,
(Solano: Solano Press Books, 2005). 1-375.
10
"[
交运仓储
]
高铁行业:
2011
年全国铁路工作会议解读
 
 
行业动态
 
 
中金在线
". <Hy.stock.cnfol.com.>Retrieved 2011-08-14.
11
Refer to 10

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