Op-Ed Contributors

Urbanization not all that good

By He Bolin (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-05 07:48
Large Medium Small

Urbanization has become synonymous with China's modernization. The country's urban population will reach 52 percent in 2015 and grow to 65 percent by 2030, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' annual urban development report, issued last week. By the end of last year, the urbanization rate had already reached 46.6 percent, with 620 million people living in urban areas.

A pro-active urbanization strategy has become popular both in academic and policymaking domains, because theoretically, it reduces farmers' population and prompts them to produce on larger scales and earn more.

Related readings:
Urbanization not all that good Asian giants face the risks of urbanization
Urbanization not all that good Incomplete urbanization roadmap
Urbanization not all that good Urbanization expected to fuel economy
Urbanization not all that good Sustainable urbanization

But the government-driven urbanization could create a situation in which the countryside would be exploited further and the younger generation would become more dependent on their parents and elders, says He Xuefeng, director of China Rural Governance Research Center, affiliated to Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan. What He is referring to is the migration of rural workers to urban areas, which is draining rural areas of their valuable human resources.

He travels between urban and rural areas in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, and visits other provinces, too, for his research on urbanization. He divides rural workers into two categories: those who migrated to cities in the 1990s and the next generation that followed them in the new century. What separates them is their aspirations.

The first-generation workers went to cities only to earn a decent living. They sent a big part of their income home, saved money to build new houses and buy home appliances, and thus helped the rural economy prosper.

These people served as flowing transmitters of China's fast-growing economy, He says. But this city-to-countryside material flow may peter out because of the waning willingness of the second-generation workers to return home. Most of these people have left home after graduating from middle school. As a result, they have less emotional attachment to their homes and are more attracted to urban life. The truth, however, is that only a few of them can manage to stay in cities because of the low salary they earn.

Since a majority of the first-generation workers have returned home, about 150 million of today's rural workers - or 70 percent of the total - belong to the second generation. But except for a few who occupy important posts in some companies or have married well-to-do men, it will be difficult for them to lead a successful life in urban areas.

Most of the second-generation workers are employed in the processing, textile, manufacturing, construction and catering industries. With their wages ranging from several hundred to 2,000 yuan, they can't afford to raise a family in big cities, where a house can cost up to tens of thousands of yuan per square meter.

In contrast, the 50,000 to 100,000 yuan that migrant workers can save after years of toil would comprise a large part of the money, if not the entire amount, needed to buy a new house in their home counties or towns.

But some second-generation workers seek money from their parents to buy a house, get married or even to pay for their children's education back home. This trend is growing, He says, based on his research in several counties of Henan province.

   Previous Page 1 2 Next Page