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Doug’s vivid account took me back to my hometown, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India: a city better known as a romantic tourist destination than as an “arrival city”. But there it is. A city that by most accounts, is very livable (perhaps that’s why angst against the city is low and it isn’t written about quite as much), and is host to thousands of migrants of all ilk.
Of the many that have over years begun to call Jaipur home, are families from Cooch Behar district in West Bengal. The bottom line is that women from Cooch Behar are overwhelmingly domestic workers in Jaipur homes. Why? For two reasons. First, Jaipur suddenly grew from being a mid-sized city in the 1990s to a thriving metropolis, up there among top ten Indian cities, by 2011, with a huge demand for domestic labor.
Second, taboos and norms (which would have to be a whole other discussion) make local Rajasthani women reluctant to work in the homes of others. Strangely, it’s fine to work in others’ fields or on construction sites, but not in others’ homes. So, it is difficult for the rich and the growing middle class to find local women to work in their homes. I forgot to say that domestic workers are overwhelmingly women, in case anyone was wondering.
Why Cooch Behar: a district way out at the other end of the country? That’s a story of social networks that establish migration patterns. Jaipur was a princely state and the Maharaja married the princess of Cooch Behar – the famed Gayatri Devi, in whose entourage came the first set of ladies-in-waiting. Over time, this migration route solidified and fulfilled Jaipur’s demand for female domestic workers. Some micro studies show that almost half of all female domestic workers in Jaipur come from Cooch Behar.
|Photo courtesy of christahasenkopf.com|
I recently read a quote by Edward Glaeser, an urban economist, in the latest issue of IFC’s quarterly journal on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), which caught my attention:
Statistically, there is a near-perfect correlation between urbanization and prosperity among nations. As a country’s urban population rises by 10 percent, the country’s per capita output increases by 30 percent.
|Quality Control Inspector Jiang Peng walks on scaffolding along the foundation of the water treatment facility.|
While traveling through China recently, I had an opportunity to visit the Shanghai Urban Environment project in the emergent suburban district of Qingpu and spoke to a number of workers responsible for the implementation and completion of the project.
As with many infrastructure and urban development projects in China, the speed and magnitude can be astonishing, with hundreds of employees working around the clock to ensure timely completion. Work on the facility runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with construction workers from all over China contracted to work and live onsite until its completion in 2011. Once finished, it will improve water service, coverage, and waste water management in the region which will be essential for sustaining the increasing population and living standards.
|Children breathe thick, toxic smog from thousands of stoves in Ulaanbaatar's ger districts, which are home to 60 percent of the city's population.|
Worst of all, imagine you and your children breathing the thick, toxic smog from thousands of stoves 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unfortunately, this is not imagination, this is the real situation for over a half million people living in the ger districts of the capital. Not a pretty picture.
This somewhat provocative question was the title of a conference hosted by Oxford and Standard Charter this week in London. My answer was: "No, not tomorrow; but yes, eventually – especially if China continues to vigorously pursue economic reform."
The reason that China cannot be the engine of global growth tomorrow is straight-forward. For the last decade an awful lot of the final demand in the world has come from the U.S. That era is over for the time being as U.S. households now concentrate on rebuilding their savings. No one country can fill the gap left by the slowdown in U.S. consumption: Japan, Germany, and China together have less consumption than the U.S., so no one of them can replace the U.S. as the major source of demand in the world. It's not realistic to expect China to play that role. But we are probably moving into a more multi-polar period in which there is more balanced growth in all of the major economies.
|The Hebei province produces one-quarter of China's steel, and has felt sharply the country's slowdown in investment during the financial crisis.|
|In Qingshen village, with some of the grandparents taking care of left-behind children and the NGO members who help them out.|