In 2008, the same year the Great Recession struck the global economy, human beings crossed a symbolic threshold; for the first time, over 50 percent were living in urban areas.
Conventional wisdom tells us that urbanization and opportunity go hand in hand. Urbanization, we assume, means industrialization, formalization, and better jobs — along with improvements in service delivery and access to amenities like education and healthcare.
Urbanization can enable these things. But what we witness today is a wide range of diverse urban experiences. Some people wind up in cities because floods and droughts induced by climate change drive them from their farms. In other cases, population growth alone turns once rural regions into “rurban” sprawl. Throughout the Global South, urbanization has not brought a swift formalization of the labor market.
The relationship between urbanization and economic opportunity has grown more tenuous.
So far, the dialogue on inclusive growth and job creation has largely focused on other policymakers – national governments, regional blocs and multilateral institutions. But with a planet destined to become 66 percent urban by 2050, the city will become an increasingly important site of policymaking – not only when it comes to conventional areas of urban planning like transportation and sanitation but also when it comes to jobs.
The government officials, businesses, academics, and civil society groups concerned with quantity and quality of jobs must turn their attention to the city. They must seek to strengthen the positive relationship between urbanization and opportunity in today’s global economy. They must investigate how we can ensure that with the growth of cities comes the creation of more and better jobs.
I will take up this theme – urbanization and “just job” creation – through a series of posts hosted here on the JustJobs blog. The series aims to raise issues that link city-level policymaking to the global dialogue on more and better job creation. My contention is that some of the most innovative solutions to the jobs crisis will emerge from thinking at the urban scale.
Blogs in this series: