Is Urban Poverty More Challenging than Rural Poverty?

Urbanization has led to an increase in the urban share of the poor, which has caused the ratio of urban poverty to total poverty incidence to rise. It has been found that in many countries, including India; urban inequality has worsened since early 1990s and is continuing to the late 2000s.

An article in Environment and Urbanization ASIA reports, “As of 2008, half of the world’s population started living in urban areas. Further, the absolute number of new urban residents is an indicator of challenges faced by governments, urban planners and other stake-holders over the next 30 years. The urban population of the world is estimated to increase from 2.86 billion in 2000 to 4.98 billion by 2030. By contrast, the size of the world’s rural population is expected to grow from 3.19 billion in 2000 to only 3.29 billion in 2030. Another noteworthy aspect of this urban growth is that greater than 90 per cent of this growth is occurring in the developing countries, adding about 70 million new residents to their urban areas each year. Further, during the next 20 years, the urban population of the world’s poorest regions—South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa—is expected to double.”

Thus, the article clearly explicates that while in absolute terms, globally, the rural population will soon be less than the urban’ and it is obvious that growth in the urban population implies further increases in the number of urban poor, even if urban poverty rates remain constant.

Cities have become the best place to foster poverty and destitution at a scale and extent unseen before. Rural poverty is one thing, but urban poverty in India and other developing countries added a whole new breed of revolting aspects to it: diseases, violence, disintegration of communities and the social fabric. However, in Asia more generally, and India specifically, urban poverty and urban inequality have received less attention than what they deserve in terms of research and policy action. Not only more research needs to be done on urban poverty and inequality, but also policymakers need to come up with innovative ways to make urbanization benefit the urban poor as well as the non-poor.

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