Rural exodus

The rural exodus is a population shift from rural areas to cities. Processes of this type have occurred throughout history but with the Industrial Revolution it was becoming more important. A phenomenon that became widespread and intensified considerably in the mid-twentieth century.

This phenomenon has meant a transfer of large contingent of population from the countryside to the cities. As a consequence, in many countries there has been a depopulation of the rural world, with multiple consequences, also economic.

The expectations of a better job, access to services and the will, in short, to achieve greater well-being , have been the elements that have been found, and are still found, at the base of the rural exodus.

Consequences of the rural exodus

The consequences of this phenomenon were multiple. On the one hand, the countryside experienced a depopulation process. Since the main protagonists of this population movement were young people, there was a gradual demographic aging . Consequently, the loss of population of certain characteristics would end up generating significant imbalances. Still today we can see the consequences of this phenomenon. Moreover, in recent decades not only has it not reversed, but it has increased.

The consequences of the rural exodus were also felt in the cities. The possibility of obtaining a job or accessing non-existent services in the countryside multiplied the urban population. The arrival of this population generated an increase in labor in the cities. This new working class of rural origin had to survive in very precarious situations. The suburbs in which these people survived, around the factories, grew considerably. This generated a growth of the urban space in a chaotic and disorderly way, with spaces in which the hygienic and sanitary conditions shone by their absence.

History of the rural exodus

From a historical point of view, we can say that the rural exodus began to gain importance with the Industrial Revolution. Thus, from 1750 to the mid-nineteenth century, this phenomenon occurred among the countries in which industrialization expanded.

One of the consequences of industrialization  was that the field underwent a process of technification. With the introduction of machinery in agricultural work, a surplus of labor was generated. This population, especially young people, opted, given the circumstances, to move to urban areas. The cities, converted into industrial centers, offered the possibility of obtaining employment for these people from the countryside.

Although referring to the term “rural exodus” reference is made, from a historical point of view to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this phenomenon continues to occur. On the one hand in industrialized countries, but also in those in development. It is in these countries where this phenomenon reaches considerable proportions, with important consequences. In countries of Latin America, Asia or, to a lesser extent, Africa, mass population displacements from rural areas to cities have generated serious problems.

The receiving cities, as happened after the Industrial Revolution, were unable to absorb all this population. As a consequence, suburban areas surrounding large cities emerged, in which large pockets of poverty were created. People who lived in these spaces must do so without guarantees of obtaining the minimum services required to maintain a dignified life.

Given the parallels between situations that have occurred several decades, or even centuries, of difference, it may seem that there is a certain relationship between economic and industrial development and the exodus from rural areas. The attraction that cities, real or fictional, exerts on the rural population has been a constant element. The hope of a better job, enjoy access to services and the desire, in short, to achieve greater well-being , are the basic elements of the rural exodus, as we mentioned at the beginning of the article.

According to World Bank data , the proportion of people living in rural areas has fallen in recent decades. In fact, in 2007, there was the circumstance that for the first time the urban population exceeded the rural population. The tendency, if there is no change, is therefore to walk towards a world of cities. In fact, estimates indicate that almost 70% of the world’s population will live in cities in 2050.

by Abdullah Sam
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