Urbanization Defines the Terrain of the Jobs War

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Urbanization Defines the Terrain of the Jobs War

The jobs war is a new phenomenon in global history.  Until the Industrial Revolution took off around 1750, real jobs for pay were only held by a small proportion of the population — even in North America and Western Europe. 

Everyone else was either a small farmer or independent craftsman in an economy that relied on human and animal power, supplemented by fire as well as some wind and water power.  Division of labor was limited and enterprises were small.  So it made sense for people to be scattered; perhaps only 15 percent lived in villages or cities.  For centuries, urbanization progressed at a slow, steady pace. 
But in a relatively short time, that’s all changed, especially in developing countries where the rates of urban expansion are unprecedented.  China, India, and Brazil are obvious examples. 

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from Texas A&M, Yale, Stanford, and Arizona State has studied this phenomenon, and concludes that globally, more than 590,000 square miles of land will be annexed by cities over the next 20 years.1  That constitutes a land mass twice the size of Texas, or about the size of Mongolia.

During this same timeframe, the United Nations predicts an additional 1.47 billion people will be added to urban areas.  This will drive a global emergence of mega-cities in India and China, as well as Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, and several other countries.  But unlike those in Japan and the U.S. that have grown up at a manageable pace and were well-capitalized with infrastructure, these new mega-cities will experience severe growing pains.

In the coming years, the mega-cities in developing countries will be ground-zero for the jobs war.  However, the outcome of that war will depend on the nature of the population growth, the level and type of infrastructure that is built, and the degree to which industry is enabled.  Already, every mega-city in the developing world is ringed by an enormous “shanty-town of squatters.”  The question for emerging countries will be whether this poor, uneducated segment of their populations can be become productive workers and “middle-class” consumers.

Because of the sheer size and certain growth trajectory of both China and India, an analysis of each country’s approach to urbanization is merited, as well as an analysis of the impact each will have on the global economy.


The tremendous pace of 21st century urbanization in China and India is historically unprecedented.  Consider that by 2025:2

  • 40 percent of the global urban population growth will have taken place in India and China...

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