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Gravity of rural-urban migration and its impact on Bangladesh

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In developing countries, rural-urban migration (RUM) is considered as the main driving force of rapid growth. There are some reasons behind this phenomenon which may vary from country to country. At the same time, consequences of this type of internal migration can affect the country with identical scenery. In Bangladesh rural-urban migration is a very common thing. Nowadays, rural people are migrating to cities for seeking a better life. The preference of taking this type of strategy has several outcomes including both sides of a coin. Bangladesh is already starting to face consequences which are determined by the change of social and economic activities. Now, what are the way forward to the consequences of this ongoing migration over the economy is the main concern in this new decade.

Millions of rural people are migrating to divisional cities for grabbing the income-generating opportunities. Industrialisation in city areas and continuous expansion of informal sector growth are the gravity of migration. Ready-Made Garments (RMG) sector is also an attraction as an economic hub especially for women who want to empower themselves through financial independence. Likewise, rural people of the coastal area always face the natural disaster, it's another reason to leave the area. In the Shock Index (SI), victims of natural disaster per 100,000 was 4.0 and share of population in low elevated coastal area was 8.9 per cent in 2018. Unstable condition of rural agricultural sector is an additional cause of migration. According to Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI), instability of agriculture production was 3.1 percent in 2018 (National Accounting Wing, BBS). Besides this, easy access to slums, lack of proper economic condition, better education facility, social discrimination, to get rid of poverty, lack of scope of absorbing a large labour force in the agricultural sector, landlessness, river erosion, joint family, higher educated family member, aged family member and human frustration are the major reasons of migration. 

Moreover, Bangladesh is a densely-populated country with a population of 161.36 million in 2018 against 103.17 million in 1990. Population growth was showing a decreasing trend as it reached 1.05 per cent by 2018 though it was 2.43 per cent in 1990. In such a context, according to UN projection, the population size will be about 100 million by 2025 (UNESCO, 2009). Additionally, Bangladesh is a country with the highest rate of growth of urban population. Rural population growth was 1.83 per cent, but from 2014 it became negative and touched minus 0.16 per cent in 2018. Exactly when the opposite scenario was portrayed by the urban portion as in 1990 the growth rate was 4.89 per cent,  it fell in 2000 and stood at 3.61 per cent. It went up again, hit 4.52 per cent in 2002. Un 2018 it was 3.19, still big comparatively (World Development Indicators).

Since 1950, urbanisation has had a tremendous effect on developing countries. In Bangladesh urban population as percentage of total population was 19.81 per cent in 1990 and it stood at 36.63 in 2018. Other South Asian countries' state in 2018 was as follows: Bhutan-40.9 per cent, India-34.03 per cent, Maldives-39.08 per cent, Nepal-19.74 per cent, Pakistan-36.67 per cent, Sri Lanka-18.48 per cent (WDI). According to the Human Development Report (UDP-2017), by 2050 more than two-thirds of the world population will start living in the urban areas. However, Africa and Asia both will have the fastest growth. By 2050 it is projected that Asia's urban population will jump from 48 per cent to 64 per cent and for Africa it will be 40 to 56 per cent. In order to accommodate this rapid expansion in urban dwellings, experts estimate that US$57 trillion in global infrastructure investment is needed by 2030. As more than 1.0 billion people live in housing that is below minimum standards of comfort and sanitation, new houses will have to be built for 3.0 billion people by 2030.

Therefore, Bangladesh is facing an immense change because of rural-urban migration trend especially in the capital city of Dhaka. The unemployment rate was 4.2 per cent in FY 2017-18 (BBS). So this young dependents are concerned about higher probability of employment opportunities. On the other hand, they set their mind to come to city for catching up with their dream. Although they are expanding food consumption and improving financial condition but in terms of housing condition their health is in danger, sanitation is far from the satisfactory level. There are social and economic costs of migration such as market failure, price hike, unhygienic environment, lack of drinking water, insufficient health care service, extreme congestion, juvenile crime, overcrowding, etc.

Furthermore, it has always been a challenge to develop the rural area with all amenities available in the urban area. As a labour-intensive country, it's a gigantic challenge to accommodate this large labour force within the limited economic zone. At the moment when migration is increasing in a consistent manner, national attention should be paid to this issue for further development. Balanced rural-urban development can be achieved through poverty alleviation, increasing economic activity, relocating industry, infrastructural development, increasing employment opportunities, providing training for enhancing productivity of the rural poor. Again, economic and social investments in rural areas through introducing new technology in the agricultural sector, better health care, sanitation and education opportunity, expanding income generating zone, improving vulnerable groups' condition, establishing youth training centre and providing bank loans will be advantageous tools.

Finally, a policy framework for reverse migration will be a vehicle for promoting growth and alleviating poverty. Internal migration may be economically beneficial for the development. On the other side, it can be the cause of underdevelopment though judging the consequences of urbanisation is a difficult task to do. So, instead of a biased urban development policy, strategic policy formulation for the rural area can save the country from the grave consequences.

Mir Ashrafun Nahar is Research Associate at South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM).

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