Urban population growth, employment and poverty in developing countries: a conceptual framework for policy analysis.

Oberai AS
In: Consequences of rapid population growth in developing countries. Proceedings of the United Nations / Institut National d'Etudes Demographiques Expert Group Meeting, New York, 23-26 August 1988. New York, New York, Taylor and Francis, 1991. 191-218.

By analyzing available theoretical and empirical studies concerning urbanization, employment, and poverty, this paper constructs a framework for examining the urban policies of developing countries. The urban population of developing countries is growing at an astonishing rate. While in 1985 13 of the world's 20 largest cities were in developing countries, that figure will rise to 17 by the year 2000, and this rapid growth has been -- and probably will continue to -- be followed by urban poverty. In developing a framework for urban policy, the essay considers the following issues: 1) the relationship between urbanization, industrialization, and economic development; 2) the determinants of urban growth and spatial concentration; 3) the relationship between spatial concentration, economic efficiency, and growth; 4) the relationship between labor force growth, labor market structure, and labor absorption; 5) the association between household characteristics and urban poverty; 6) the role of the informal sector in generating employment are alleviating poverty; 7) the process by which slums are formed; and 8) the effects of social services on urban poverty. According to the author, rapid urbanization and the concentration of economic activity in urban centers is an inevitable consequence of industrialization. Not only is it difficult to determine the optimal rate of urbanization and the best spatial distribution of economic activities, governments are limited in their options for controlling migration. The author suggests that instead of attempting to intervene directly in population distribution, governments policy should focus on correcting biases in national policies which favor urban centers.

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