News & CommentaryArchive
Jan 24, 2007
Urban Migration: A Solution Bred from No Alternative
Millions of rural Chinese are migrating to cities each year in search of work, often leaving their young children behind, reports the Wall Street Journal. China’s strict migration laws make it impossible for children to relocate, and 22 million children have been left behind by one or both parents. At least 30 percent of them are left with grandparents, another relative and sometimes by themselves, creating a generation of under-supervised kids.
This phenomenon is not unique to China. Urbanization experts estimate more of the world’s population will live in cities than in the country. This is a massive shift from 50 years ago when 70 percent of the world’s population lived in rural environments, and New York was the only city with more than 10 million people. Developing countries are driving the trend as more of the world’s poor migrate in search of work, often to sprawling slums without electricity, clean water, adequate sanitation or access to healthcare or education. By 2015, eight of the world’s 10 largest cities will be in developing countries.
While the growth of urban slums seems inexorable, some creative people are thinking up ways to present the poor with alternatives to migration. A recent BusinessWeek article profiled an Indian nonprofit called GramIT. In the world’s second most populous country, GramIT is building outsourcing operations in rural villages as a way to provide employment. It is offering services such as accounts payable or payroll to companies headquartered in India’s urban centers at half the cost those companies would have to pay a city provider. The challenge of convincing companies to sign on is real, but if GramIT proves the idea is sustainable, it could be a model for business development in other countries with rapidly growing urban slum populations.
Wall Street Journal: As China Booms, Millions of Children are Left Behind
BusinessWeek: Outsourcing Heads to the Outskirts