Rural-Urban migration, or "urbanization", has led to a better life for a majority of Southeast Asians. To what extent is this true? Discuss your answer using examples from at least three different Southeast Asian societies to illustrate your points. ____
For the longest time, Singaporeans lived in a relative urban oasis - coined, praised and awarded as the ‘Garden City’. Even so, in the last 2 years, Singaporeans have experienced the stress of continued urbanization, created primarily through migration. This stress has been manifested physically as inadequate infrastructure, socially as rising xenophobia and politically as rising discontentment, leading to the long-ruling People’s Action Party to face its worst electoral performance since independence in 1965. It is this backdrop that propelled our group to comparatively examine the urbanization experiences of three of Southeast Asia’s largest countries, and evaluate the outcomes.
Firstly and most importantly, it is important to delineate the two key terms - “rural-urban migration” and “urbanization”. While “rural-urban migration” is a subset of “urbanization”, urbanization as a process is far more encompassing, as Terry McGee has noted to include the expansion and encroachment of urban regions into formerly rural areas through land-use conversion practices. For the scope of this essay, we will limit our arguments to the process of “rural-urban migration”.
The process of migration is simply defined by Zelinsky as “a permanent or semipermanent change of residence”. Petersen offers a sociological perspective, defining migration as “a spatial transfer from one social unit or neighbourhood to another”. Extending these, rural-urban migration can be broadly defined as the movement of people from rural home locations to urban locations, which results in socio-economic impacts for “both the origin and destination societies”. This includes circulatory migration, where rural migrants return to their home location after a period in the urban location, and permanent relocation from the rural location to the urban location. Further to this, to achieve a manageable scope of discussion, we have elected to focus on (domestic) rural-urban migration, where the rural and urban locations are located within the same country, as opposed to the processes of transnational (and regional) rural-urban migration.
In this essay, we will argue that while the process of rural-urban migration has created a better life for some, it has not necessarily created a better life for the majority of Southeast Asians especially when evaluated on a holistic level. Specifically, we will use the case studies of Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines to support our argument. These three countries were selected as their combined populations of over 400 million, consist a majority 65 per cent of Southeast Asia’s 620 million people, in addition to their relative comparative congruence within the extremely diverse Southeast Asian region.
Secondly, this essay strives not to be an ideological critique of the processes of “rural-urban migration” and “urbanization” but rather, serve as a comparative exposition on the impacts of rural-urban migration in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines and provide an objective evaluation of whether this process has created a “better life” for the “majority of Southeast Asians”. Aptly congruent, Tjitoherijanto and Hasmi describe urbanization as an expression of “people’s desire for a better life” and “must be recognized as a natural modern process by which humans attempt to improve their welfare”.
The central themes of what is “a better life”, has rural-urban migration created it and for whom, form the framework of our discussion.
Case Study: The Philippines
In our first case study, we analyze the Philippines. The state of urbanization in the Philippines is comparatively the most advanced of the three case studies, with...