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Author: Harsh Mangalam, II year of B.A.,LL.B. from School of Law, GITAM University

Urbanization is a complex set of economic, demographic, social, cultural, technological, and environmental processes that result in an increase in the proportion of a territory's population living in towns and cities, an increase in population concentration in the territory's larger settlements, and an increase in population density within urban settlements. Levels of urbanisation are strongly associated to levels of economic development on a global scale, but rates of urbanisation are negatively related to levels of economic development. Immigration and migration, as well as natural population expansion, are key causes of urbanisation, although they are supported by other processes, including structural economic transformation. In particular, urbanisation patterns are the result of the interaction of these factors, processes that are impacted by feedback effects caused by changing characteristics of urban systems, urban ecology, and urban political economics.

Nowadays, urbanisation causes massive social, economic, and environmental changes, which gives a chance for long-term sustainability. There is the "potential to use resources more efficiently, to create more sustainable land use, and to protect natural ecosystem biodiversity." Developed nations have mostly finished the urbanisation process, whereas emerging countries are entering a phase of rapid urbanisation. According to the United Nations, half of the world's population lived in cities by the end of 2008. Globally, the overall amount of urbanisation is presently estimated to be at 55%.The United Nations has anticipated that by 2050, 64 percent of the developing world and 86 percent of the industrialised world will be urbanised, with cities absorbing over 1.1 billion new urbanites between 2015 and 2030. China has recently become one of the world's fastest expanding and most urbanised countries. Urbanization has also become a new engine of national economic growth and social development, and the rate of urbanisation has gradually increased in many regions of the world.

Process of Urbanization

Urbanization is the process through which the bulk of the working population shifts from farmers to non-rural residents, hence expanding the urban population. It is also a process through which primitive and closed agrarian civilizations evolve into contemporary urban civilizations with a concentration on modern industries and services, distinguished by modern urban infrastructure and public service amenities. In truth, urbanisation is the process through which rural populations adopt an urban lifestyle, as well as the extension of urban built-up areas and the construction of an urban environment.

Growth and Economic Development

Cities are the focal points of the production, distribution, and trade processes due to economies of scale and the benefits of concentration and centralization of ownership. As a result, urban and regional economic growth and development are required for urbanisation (Knox, 2009). Some interconnected economic transformation processes become the most significant variables in urbanisation as a result of characteristics such as geography and natural resources. In general, there is a significant relationship between economic progress and urbanisation. Most nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have urbanisation rates of 70% or higher.The highest levels, such as those in Belgium, Germany, Iceland, and the United Kingdom, have a per capita GDP of more than $40,000; Iceland's per capita GDP was even $70,000 in 2017. On the other side, most of the world's least developed countries have low levels of urbanisation. Low levels of urbanisation (less than 25%) are found in Africa (Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, and Uganda) and areas of South and Southeast Asia (Nepal), where yearly per capita GDP is less than $1,000.

Social Transformation

Structure changes in society as a result of economic development and urban population increase are linked to these demographic processes. Urbanization is also a social transformation process that may transform a rural country into an industrial and city-centred one. The increasing urbanisation process provides an abundance of unskilled labour to the global economy, creating numerous job possibilities, particularly in light industries. Cities can provide several chances for both official and informal work. It is one of the reasons why cities produce a substantial portion of some new industries. In general, certain bigger metropolitan areas become foci of societal transformation, with initial values, attitudes, and behaviour patterns being transformed in the urban environment.However, new suburbs foster the success of industrial, residential, entertainment, and commercial sectors in tandem with the outer extension of a metropolis (suburbanization). On the other side, severe issues such as crime and unemployment, as well as a lack of investment, can occur in the city core.

Shrinking Cities

Some cities have had decreasing employment as a result of globalisation and deindustrialization in developed nations, suburbanization and gentrification in big metropolitan centres, and an ageing demographic structure. As a result, the urban population began to disperse, and population density fell precipitously. Lands were abandoned and buildings were deserted in a short amount of time, damaging infrastructure and social amenities such as public transportation, housing, commercial services, schools, hospitals, and utilities. Urban taxes were also slashed to such an extent that they failed to fulfil the demands necessary to maintain the existing infrastructure, causing the city's vitality to dwindle over time. It is a sign of a fading city.

Reasons for Urbanization

A complete technique of assessing urbanisation was presented, and it was suggested that urbanisation is a multidimensional reflection of physical, geographical, institutional, economic, demographic, and social aspects. Many thousand years ago, the first major change in human settlement patterns was the grouping of hunter-gatherers into communities. The second major shift is the most significant; it is a trend of population and economic polarisation caused by industrialisation. This is accompanied by modernisation, which is driven by politics, ideology, and society, as well as the economy and culture. A number of urbanisation theories have been proposed in an attempt to explain such a complicated urbanisation process.The first is the theory of pre-industrial urbanisation, which maintains that the establishment and expansion of cities leverages scale economies and agglomeration economics principles. The second is the hypothesis of developed-country industrialization-led urbanisation. Urbanization is the process through which an agrarian community becomes an urbanised society as a result of industrialisation. The third is the philosophy of encouraging modernization-driven urbanisation in poor nations. The last idea is globalization-led urbanisation, which is a primary driver pushing globalisation. It is obvious that interactions between economic, social, and political elements, as well as population and resources such as water, land, and minerals, promote urbanisation in their respective locations.

  • Industrialisation

For a long time, it has been stated that economic progress is dependent on the rise of modern industrial sectors, which necessitated the transfer of a large and inexpensive labour force from the agricultural sector. Following this rationale, Lewis presented a dual economic growth model based on a limitless labour supply. This economic theory addresses the geographical mechanisms of urbanisation expansion and dissemination. The "surplus product" approach captures the cumulative causality of urbanisation. It is an excellent example of early urbanisation in China. In the 1980s, rural reform effectively increased agricultural productivity and foreign investment.When the demand to produce food was relieved, a huge number of rural labourers were able to join non-agricultural enterprises and the new urbanisation trend. As a result, approximately 100 million rural labourers were engaged by cooperatively held firms in cities. To find work, a vast number of peasants relocated to towns, cities, industrial and mining districts. Parallel development occurred in urban and rural regions, in industry and agriculture, and in urban and economic expansion. This is referred to as "synchro urbanisation" (the urbanisation process corresponds to the level of industrialization and economic growth).

  • Modernization

Many emerging countries saw rapid urbanisation following World War II. However, this urbanisation process is very different from that of industrialised nations. According to several ideas, the goal of population migration is to enhance living circumstances. Those elements that contribute to the improvement of living circumstances flow into the region, becoming pulling forces, while those ones that contribute to the deterioration of living conditions in the outflow areas become pushing pressures. Emigration has given one possible safety valve for emerging countries' rapidly rising rural populations, although most wealthy countries have erected restrictions to immigration after World War II.As a result, the only option for an increasing number of impoverished rural residents has been to relocate to larger towns and cities, where, at least for them, there are opportunities for employment, access to schools, health clinics, and piped water, as well as other public facilities and services that are frequently unavailable in rural areas.

  • Various other reasons for Urbanization are as follows:

1. Globalization

2. Marketization

3. Administrative or Institutional Powers

Importance of Urbanization

  • Better access to facilities: Higher levels of literacy and education, better health, longer life expectancy, more access to social services, and increased chances for cultural and political involvement are all associated with urban living.Access tohospitals, clinics, and health services in general is facilitated by urbanisation. Living close to these resources improves emergency care and overall health.

  • Access to Information: There are other advantages to having easier access to information sources such as radio and television, which may be utilised to transmit health information to the general population. Women in towns and cities, for example, are more likely to be aware about family planning, which leads to a reduction in family size and fewer childbirths.

  • Individualism: The multiplicity of possibilities, social variety, and the lack of familial and societal influence over decision-making leads to increased self-interest and aids independent decision-making and selecting one's job and activities.

Disadvantages of Urbanization

  • Excessive Population Pressure: On the one hand, rural-urban migration increases the rate of urbanisation; on the other hand, it places an undue strain on existing public facilities. As a result, cities face issues such as slums, crime, unemployment, urban poverty, pollution, congestion, ill-health, and a variety of deviant social activities.

  • Overflowing Sums: There are around 13.7 million slum dwellings in the nation, which contain a population of 65.49 million people. As much as 65% of Indian cities have contiguous slums where people live in tiny dwellings next to one other.

  • Inadequate Housing: The most painful of the myriad social difficulties associated with urbanisation is the issue of housing. The great bulk of the urban population lives in squalid circumstances and in densely packed areas. In India, more than half of urban households live in a single room, with an average occupancy of 4.4 people per room.

How to move forward with Urbanization

  • Sustainable Development: As the globe continues to urbanise, proper management of urban expansion becomes increasingly important, particularly in low-income and lower-middle-income nations, where urbanisation is expected to be the quickest. Integrated strategies to enhance the lives of both urban and rural residents are required, as are stronger links between urban and rural regions, based on existing economic, social, and environmental relationships.

  • Improving access to Health Care Facilities: Increasing the effectiveness of welfare and humanitarian programmes while also assuring access to free immunizations, food security, and suitable housing in slums. Improving slum cleanliness and transportation, as well as creating clinics and healthcare services. Providing assistance to charities and local support organisations that have a wider reach into these vulnerable areas.

  • Newer Approaches: New approaches to urban planning and effective governance are urgently required.To develop a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive infrastructure, certain activities must be made. To better understand the particular issues encountered by the urban poor, a bottom-up strategy will be used instead of a top-down approach.


Urbanization has been both a boon and a bane to the modern human society. There are a number of aspects of the human society that are influenced by the process of urbanization. Urbanization has been discussed in depth in the above study by discussing the process, the economic growth and development, social transformation, Shrinking cities, the reasons for urbanization, advantages and disadvantages, and the way to move forward with urbanization.


1. P. Knox, “Urbanization”, Editor(s): Rob Kitchin, Nigel Thrift, International Encyclopaedia of Human Geography, Elsevier, 2009<https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-008044910-4.01108-1>, accessed on 3rd May 2022.

2. Gu, C. Urbanization: Processes and driving forces. Sci. China Earth Sci. 62, 1351–1360 (2019). <https://doi.org/10.1007/s11430-018-9359-y>, accessed on 4th May 2022

3. DrishtiIAS, “Urbanization”, <https://www.drishtiias.com/to-the-points/Paper2/urbanisation-3> , accessed on 4th May.