Urbanisation occurs because people move from rural areas (countryside) to urban areas (towns and cities). This usually occurs when a country is still developing.
Levels of urbanisation in 1950 and 1990
Prior to 1950 the majority of urbanisation occurred in MEDCs (more economically developed countries). Rapid urbanisation took place during the period of industrialisation that took place in Europe and North America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many people moved from rural to urban areas to get jobs in the rapidly expanding industries in many large towns and cities. Since 1950 urbanisation has slowed in most MEDCs, and now some of the biggest cities are losing population as people move away from the city to rural environments. This is known as counter-urbanisation. You can read more about this process here.
Since 1950 the most rapid growth in urbanisation has occurred in LEDCs (Less Economically Developed Countries) in South America, Africa and Asia. Between 1950 and 1990 the urban population living in LEDCs doubled. In developed countries the increase was less than half.
The three main causes of urbanisation in LEDCs since 1950 are:
1. Rural to urban migration is happening on a massive scale due to population pressure and lack of resources in rural areas. This are ‘push’ factors.
2. People living in rural areas are ‘pulled’ to the city. Often they believe that the standard of living in urban areas will be much better than in rural areas. They are usually wrong. People also hope for well paid jobs, the greater opportunities to find casual or ‘informal’ work, better health care and education.
3. Natural increase caused by a decrease in death rates while birth rates remain high.
The UN predicts that by 2030 60% of the world’s population will live in urban environments.