Throughout most of history, the majority of the world’s population lived in rural areas and only a small proportion of people lived in urban areas. However the proportion of the world’s population that lives in urban areas (towns and cities) has increased with the passage of time. In 1800, for instance only 3% of the world’s population lived in urban areas. By 1950, the figure had increased to about about 30% of the world’s population. In 2008, about half of the world’s population resided in urban areas. In 2012, 51% of the world’s population lived in urban areas.
For the first time in history, more people live in urban areas than rural areas. In many countries all over the world, more and more people are choosing to live in cities. Therefore, the proportion of the population living in urban areas continues to increase. The process by which an increasing proportion of the population lives in urban areas is known as urbanization.
Urbanization does not only occur in developed countries such as the USA. Urbanization occurs in the Caribbean as well. More and more people in the region are choosing to live in urban areas. There are many reasons for this:
- Employment opportunities: This is one of the major reasons for urbanization. There are more jobs available in urban areas. Also there is a greater range of job opportunities in urban areas. Therefore many people move to the towns and cities in search of employment.
- Social services: Urban areas generally have better healthcare facilities than rural areas. Indeed, some rural areas have no healthcare facilities at all. Urban areas also have better educational facilities. Most secondary and tertiary level educational facilities are to be found in towns and cities. The availability of these facilities is another reason that many people prefer to live in urban areas.
- The availability of public utilities: Utilities such as piped water, electricity, telephone and internet services are readily available in urban areas. Some of these services are unavailable in some rural areas. This is another reason that many people choose to live in urban areas.
- Entertainment: Urban areas provide more opportunities for entertainment than rural areas. In urban areas one may find nightclubs, fancy restaurants, sports facilities, shopping malls and many other opportunities for entertainment and recreation. Many people prefer to live in urban areas because of the availability of these entertainment opportunities.
Benefits of Urbanization
Some of the benefits of urbanization include:
- Convenience: A wide range of goods and services are conveniently located in the same area.
- Many businesses prefer to be located in urban areas in order to have access to potential customers, employees and other businesses which supply them with inputs.
- Efficiency: Services such as piped water, electricity, telecommunications and even garbage collection can be provided more efficiently in urban areas.
Problems caused by Urbanization
Some of the problems associated with urbanization include:
- Shortage of land for building: In many cities, there is a shortage of land for building. As a result, cities often spread out onto the surrounding areas. This is known as “urban sprawl”. A good example of urban sprawl has occurred in Jamaica as the capital, Kingston, has spread outward into the surrounding areas such as St. Andrew and Portmore.
- Traffic: Since many people travel to cities for work or school, there may be very heavy traffic on the roads leading into these areas on mornings. Traffic is also quite heavy on afternoons as people make their way home from work or school. There may be traffic congestion during these periods as the road networks are often incapable of handling such a heavy flow of traffic.
- Poor housing conditions: Some of the less fortunate residents of our cities cannot afford proper housing. This has led to the development of slums in and around many cities. About one billion people live in slums all over the world. Many of these areas lack electricity, piped water or proper sanitation.
- Crime: Urban areas usually experience higher rates of crime than rural areas. Unemployment and poverty sometimes lead people to engage in activities such as robbery, prostitution or selling illegal drugs.
Watch this video which shows trends in urbanization in the world