In recent decades, megacities in India and Indonesia—the world’s largest developing country democracies—have grown increasingly inaccessible to rural-urban migrants. For anyone who hasn’t obtained higher levels of education, the potential wage boost in moving from a rural area to a big city has been eroded by increasing skill demands in the labor market and higher costs of living. Small cities, meanwhile, pose fewer barriers for rural-urban migrants.
Cities are often seen as sites of emancipation and freedom for women, as compared to the social restrictions of the village and the hard manual labour of working on the farm. Small cities might not offer the level of freedoms women experience in the metropolis, they do, however, create specific opportunities for young women to access non-farm work. A gender inclusive planning and governance framework is urgently needed to leverage the potential for improving women’s work outcomes in these places.
It is already commonly acknowledged in migration studies that instead of one-time long-term movements from one place to another, migration is increasingly complex in pattern and duration. We find that small cities lie at the cusp of multiple mobilities, acting as origin points, destinations as well as transit points for migrant youth.
Lately, policy makers and commentators have questioned whether the “demographic dividend” could turn into a “disaster,” as countries struggle to create enough productive jobs for their ballooning youth populations. So far, research has focused less on the geography of the demographic dividend. Where are these young people who seek productive work? Where can their economic potential be fulfilled?