Urbanization not all that good

By He Bolin
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, August 5, 2010
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Local governments' policies tend to ban or discourage people from building houses in the countryside, but encourage rural workers to buy houses in counties and towns. Towns in Henan that He and his team visited have populations ranging from 20,000 to 25,000. But since new houses and buildings are still being constructed there, these places could accommodate more than 30,000 people each.

In the short term, such workers would boost the economies of counties and towns by buying houses and settling down there. They would raise local governments' income, too. In return, their children would get better education and avail of better infrastructure than in the countryside.

But a string of problems are likely to pop up once the second-generation workers have settled down in such towns or counties, He warns.

At present, at least on the surface, urbanization is spreading with rural workers using their personal and family savings to buy more homes in counties and towns. But since jobs are still few in these places, and the pay still low, more and more rural workers are moving to cities.

So, the second-generation rural workers in counties and towns have to do with lower incomes compared to those working in cities. Their daily expenses will increase, nevertheless, and they will face greater problems in running their families and bringing up a child.

The jobs available to rural workers in counties and towns offer about less than 1,000 yuan a month, He says. With such a low income, they cannot become a sustainable supporting factor for urbanization and economic development of these counties and towns.

Most of the young people who move to urban areas leave their parents behind to work in fields. And regardless of their advancing age, their parents do so to support not only themselves, but also their children working in urban areas.

He and his team have visited six villages in Henan, each with about 200 old people. But fewer than 10 people in each village have more than 10,000 yuan as savings in banks. These people should have saved at least 5,000 yuan a year by working in the fields, but couldn't because they had to give their children money to buy houses in counties or towns, or to get married. Thus the resource drain continues and the pressure on old people keeps growing.

Compare this to the situation when the first-generation migrant workers brought money and materials back to rural areas. Isn't the urbanization of counties depleting the countryside of its human and natural resources?

But He still thinks that if the government shifts its development strategy from east to central and west China, rural people in the vast inland areas will have more job opportunities and be better paid, and hence can take better care of their families in counties.

The strategy has to be shifted because the government has improved infrastructure in inland areas immensely and industries in the coastal areas need to be upgraded, He says. Besides, the government's favorable policy toward the countryside will serve as an incentive for more people to return to the fields, wand perhaps modernize agriculture.

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