Urbanization can be defined as the average increase in the number of people living in urban areas. It is the movement of people from rural to urban areas and the way the society adapts to this population change.
Often, people misunderstand urbanization with urban growth and use these two words interchangeably, but in the real sense, these two words are different. While urbanization deals with the percentage of the national population living in cities and towns, urban growth deals with the total number of people living in these areas.
From the time of the earliest cities of Mesopotamia and Egypt till the 18th century, there has been always a fixed equilibrium between the number of people living in rural areas and the number of people living in the small economic centres that are synonymous with cities. At this time, most people that lived in the rural areas were farmers that were majorly practising subsistence agriculture while people that lived in these ‘cities’ were traders that sold and manufactured things on a small scale. Due to the slow rate of development at this time, the percentage of people living in rural areas and the cities remained at a constant equilibrium.
But with the onset of the British revolution and the industrial revolution, this relationship was finally broken as there was a need to develop more industries and this resulted in a reduction of land available for farming forcing people to take other forms of jobs majorly in the manufacturing industries. This change became so obvious that as of the 19th century, the number of people living in urban areas in major countries of the world for every 20,000 people ranged from 25% to 72% in 1891. And as Urbanization began to spread all over the world, the percentage of the world population living in urban areas was 15% at the start of the 20th century but it has now increased to over 50%.
One of the major causes of urbanization is industrialization. After the industrial revolution, numerous job opportunities came into existence and these contributed to the movement of people into urban areas. These industrial jobs are usually battered and higher-paying than most rural jobs and for this reason most people especially youths preferred to work in these industries.
Another major cause of urbanization is the lack of basic social amenities in rural areas. As you will agree, urban areas are usually accompanied by better social amenities such as an uninterrupted power supply, good roads, good health care, and access to clean water. Humans naturally crave a better standard of living and so tend to move into these areas to enjoy these social amenities leading to population growth in these urban areas.
Finally, on the causes of urbanization, rural-urban transformation is another major cause of urbanization. The transformation of subsistence agriculture to commercial agriculture leads to an advancement in the technological development of rural areas. These transformations then lead to the development of more urban areas leading to the average increase in the rate of urbanization in the country.
Urbanization has some effects on society. Although some of these effects are positive, there are also negative ones. The positive effects can only be noticed if this urbanization is in the right proportion and these effects are what usually make people move into urban areas. The positive and negative effects of urbanization on contemporary life are given below.
One of the most popular positive effects of urbanization is increasing employment opportunities. The introduction of large cities and industries brings a lot of job opportunities as people can now work in various fields of human life and get paid accordingly.
Urbanization also provides people with basic human amenities. The gradual development of towns and cities due to urbanization leads to the production of human activities by the government to the people and this is one of the major reasons why people move from rural areas into urban areas.
First of all, urbanization brings about pollution. As more people move into cities and towns and as more industries are being built, the rate at which people utilize resources, both natural and artificial, increases and thus waste products also increase. This leads to a drastic increase in the level of pollution in such an area and if there is no proper waste management system in such areas, the pollution will aggregate into a very big mess.
Secondly, urbanization also leads to the development of slums worldwide, when the cost of living is very high, and this increase in the cost of living is combined with a random and unexpected increase in unemployment, there will be a spread of unlawful resident settlements represented by slums and quarters. The growth of slums and squatters in urban areas is even further increased by a fast rate of industrialization, lack of developed land for hosing and large movement of people from rural areas into urban areas.