Rural-Urban Migration

  • Paul Streeten


The rapid rate of rural-urban migration is the result of several factors. First, the rate of growth of the total labour force has been high, and remunerative opportunities in the rural sector have been limited. Second, perceived income and security differentials in the two sectors have been high. Third, productivity in food production is often very low as a result of the poor quality of natural resources and low investment in infrastructure, irrigation and technology. This pushes people away from the land. Fourth, there is the pull from the rapid growth of the urban sector and urban services, partly induced by foreign capital and aid. There are also other urban attractions besides higher wages, such as government subsidies to food. The migration can add to labour scarcities on the land, to the high costs of providing urban services, and to a change in demand from domestic to imported goods that cost foreign exchange. Underpricing of agricultural products has contributed to the flow of migrants away from the land. It has been estimated that in Egypt price policies for wheat, rice, maize and cotton have reduced employment by about 5 per cent of the rural population.2 If higher prices for food and other agricultural products were to reduce the number of urban poor by reducing migration, this would also reduce the target group of poor food consumers for whom food prices have to be kept low.


Foreign Capital Urban Poor Urban Migration Urban Sector Rural Sector 
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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    Malcolm D. Bale and Ernst Lutz, ‘Price distortions in agriculture and their effects’, World Bank Staff Working Paper, no. 359 (1979).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Tibor Scitovsky, ‘Comment on Adelman’, World Development (September 1984),Google Scholar
  3. ‘Economic development in Taiwan and South Korea’, Stanford Food Research Institute, vol. XIX, no. 3 (1985) p. 231.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Paul Streeten 1987

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  • Paul Streeten

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