The Benefits and Challenges of Urbanization

Urbanization is a sign of the times. Since the Industrial Revolution, many people have moved to cities in hopes of better, more prosperous ways of living. As technologies evolve and the human population increases, the pressures to urbanize dramatically increase. By 2050, it’s expected that nearly 70% (revise hyperlink) 66-70% of the world’s population will live in cities.

Characterized by the process of increased populations in cities and suburbs, urbanization is generally thought to correlate with the advancement of civilization. It can in many cases radically improve the quality of life for citizens while improving economic, political, and cultural structures, but certainly not in every case.  

There are many advantages that urbanization can offer the planet, people, and local economies. Yet, if urban planning is haphazard or not implemented strategically, it could  have unforeseen consequences contributing to unsuitable living conditions in cities and countries. Focusing on the benefits and challenges of urbanization allows us to identify what to focus on as new urban areas, like smart cities, are created:

The Benefits

Trade and commerce: Urbanization advances the country’s business sectors by providing more jobs and a more diverse economy. A vast network of goods and services has helped develop modern commercial institutions and exchanges that have empowered the growth of urban areas. Commercialization and trade offers town and cities better business opportunities and returns compared to rural areas. Rural citizens come to urban places with their goods and needs for products and services only available in urban areas.

Tourism industries: More people in cities means the need for better transportation systems. Foreigners are attracted to cities with great transportation for easy mobility as well as unique attractions partially supported by infrastructure. It provides great foreign currency inflows for the cities’ economies.

Culture and Sciences: Improvements in culture and sciences are projected to increase through increased urbanization. As diverse cultures interact, work, and communicate with one another in close proximity, cultures are integrated more smoothly. In addition, access to better educational facilities and living standards (like better sanitation, healthcare, and housing) can create better recreational lifestyles and better social life. These reasons encourage more people to migrate into cities and town to obtain a variety of social services and benefits which are widespread and limited in rural areas.

The Challenges:

Development of housing issues: The rapid flow of rural populations into urban areas mean there will be a rise in housing scarcity. Insufficient space for housing and public buildings may give rise to housing problems, poverty, and unemployment. Costly building materials may be unaffordable for some individuals, resulting in slums.

Decrease in rural populations: The decrease in rural populations means a shortage of workers who will be able to produce agriculture. As a result, there may be an in-demand need to feed growing populations within cities. But there will also be a dramatic escalation of solid waste production in cities and on farms trying to grow enough food. For example, Nitrogen discarded in farm and urban organic wastes each year equals 137% of the nitrogen in all chemical fertilizers, which can negatively affect climates.

Overpopulation in urban areas: Overcrowding occurs when a large number of people live in a small areas. Congested areas increase daily as the inflow of immigrants and people move into the cities.Pressure is put on sanitation and water facilities. In addition, environmental pollution and health hazards may become more rampant.


It’s difficult to predict the precise changes for each nation because there are uncertainties in how much and where urban populations will grow in the future. However, with the benefits and challenges of urbanization we can start to formulate solutions to help better sustain cities and people across the globe. We have much to be excited for when it comes to urbanization, as long as we can prepare for the consequences to create a better society for all urbanites.

Image: Dylan Taylor by Wikimedia Commons

Source: Dylan Taylor

This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.