Rural exodus


The rural exodus is a population displacement from rural areas to the cities. Processes of this type have occurred throughout history, but with the Industrial Revolution it became more important. A phenomenon that became widespread and intensified considerably in the mid-twentieth century.

This phenomenon has meant a transfer of large numbers of the population from the countryside to the cities. As a consequence, in many countries there has been a depopulation of the rural world, with multiple consequences, also economic.

The expectations of a better job, access to services and the will, ultimately, to achieve greater well-being, have been the elements that have been found, and still are, at the base of the rural exodus.

Consequences of the rural exodus

The consequences of this phenomenon were multiple. On the one hand, the countryside experienced a depopulation process. Given that the main protagonists of this population movement were young, there was a gradual demographic aging. Consequently, the loss of population of certain characteristics would end up generating important imbalances. We can still see the consequences of this phenomenon today. Moreover, in recent decades not only has it not been reversed, but it has increased.

The consequences of the rural exodus were also felt in the cities. The possibility of obtaining a job or accessing non-existent services in the countryside multiplied the urban population. The arrival of this population generated an increase in the workforce in the cities. This new working class of rural origin had to survive in very precarious situations. The suburbs in which these people survived, around the factories, grew considerably. This generated a growth of urban space in a chaotic and disorderly way, with spaces in which hygienic and sanitary conditions were conspicuous by their absence.

History of the rural exodus

From a historical point of view, we can say that the rural exodus began to gain importance with the Industrial Revolution. Thus, from 1750 to the mid-nineteenth century, this phenomenon occurred among the countries in which industrialization expanded.

One of the consequences of industrialization was that the countryside underwent a process of technification. With the introduction of machinery in agricultural work, a surplus of labor was generated. This population, especially young people, chose, given the circumstances, to move to urban areas. The cities, converted into industrial centers, offered the possibility of obtaining a job to these people from the countryside.

Although referring to the term "rural exodus" refers, from a historical point of view to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this phenomenon continues to occur. On the one hand in industrialized countries, but also in developing countries. It is in these countries that this phenomenon reaches considerable proportions, with important consequences. In countries in Latin America, Asia or, to a lesser extent, Africa, massive population movements from rural areas to cities have created serious problems.

The host cities, as happened already after the Industrial Revolution, were unable to absorb all this population. As a consequence, suburban areas emerged that surround large cities, in which large pockets of poverty were created. The people who lived in these spaces must do so without guarantees of obtaining the minimum services required to maintain a dignified life.

Given the parallels between situations that occurred several decades, or even centuries, apart, it may seem that there is some relationship between economic and industrial development and exodus from rural areas. The attraction that cities, real or fictitious, exert on the rural population has been a constant element. The hope of a better job, enjoying access to services and the desire, ultimately, to achieve greater well-being, are the basic elements of the rural exodus, as we mentioned at the beginning of the article.

According to data from the World Bank, the proportion of people living in rural areas has fallen in recent decades. In fact, in 2007, it happened that for the first time the urban population surpassed the rural one. The trend, if there is no change, is therefore to move towards a world of cities. In fact, estimates indicate that almost 70% of the world's population will live in cities by 2050.

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