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Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Urbanisation

1 October 2015

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Recently, I read quite an interesting article called “the social impacts of urbanisation”. Urbanisation has been mentioned in my blog of 28 May 2015 and my recent 29 September blog, although not a a main topic. I think and feel that I have largely underestimated the (social) impact(s) of urbanisation. It is difficult to “see” such an “event” that has been building slowly for many decades. Urbanisation is like a growing tree that spans several human generations.

Urbanisation is not a Western phenomenon. In my chats with Kenyan friends, I have noticed the exact same: young adults leaving family homes looking for work/income in the big city. Grand parents and parents stay behind in rural communities. In many cases, mobile (internet) connection in those rural communities is still a challenge. Even electricity may be a luxury.

Urbanisation has torn family structures apart and is likely to become even more relevant for future human social structures. On the one hand, urbanisation may well be the main cause for loneliness amongst elderly people. On the other hand, urbanisation may well explain the development of various alternative lifestyles amongst young people given the absence of elderly oversight. In both cases, urbanisation is causing an increase in single person households.

Urbanisation is also causing a wealth impact. Houses in urban communities show sharp average price increases. Houses in rural areas either decrease in value – given the absence of buyers – or hardly keep up with general inflation. Moving from a rural to an urban community may have a devastating impact on the size of the family house and the size of the underlying land.

In my youth, I was always playing outside in our small village and was never warned for “strangers” – until a certain day. At the age of 8, 9 or 10, I was walking alone to primary school and a car stopped and asked me for directions to a familiar address near my school. I wasn’t capable of explaining directions verbally, accepted the invitation to ride along, and explained while driving. At school I went out of the car and the person went to his destination. Somehow my parents found out about this and warned me (in 1968-1970!) to never ever step in a stranger’s car again. I recall they said something about “bad” things that could happen to me, without much further explanation.

Today, parents in urban communities are more and more reluctant to let their children play outside as fear of strangers has become common. Inside (computer) gaming has also become common for children. On top of this, changing food habits have also become common. Consequently, obesity amongst children has become a new health problem. All of these issues are ultimately directly or indirectly related to urbanisation.

The article I was referring to above, also mentions falling fertility rates as a consequence of urbanisation. This impact should not be underestimated. Increasing urban real estate property prices combined with a deteriorating labour market (e.g., robotics) will put a (further) ”natural” cap on urban fertility rates. Without the influx of strangers (e.g., immigrants, refugees), the average age of Western populations would only increase.

Urbanisation may also have a profound effect on climate change. See my 3 May 2015 blog.

It is now widely accepted that urbanisation is as much a social process as it is an economic and territorial process. It transforms societal organisations, the role of the family, demographic structures, the nature of work, and the way we choose to live and with whom. It also modifies domestic roles and relations within the family, and redefines concepts of individual and social responsibility. Source

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