Articles by Ivan Turok
The economic and social crisis induced by Covid-19 is unfolding in different ways across the country. New evidence from the NIDS-CRAM survey reveals that the pandemic has widened pre-existing inequalities between cities and rural areas. Within cities it has magnified the gap between suburbs, townships and informal settlements. A premature withdrawal of government relief schemes could aggravate the hardship and suffering in poor communities that have come to rely on these resources following the jobs slump.
Moving to a city in search of work seems to pay off for many poor people in the countryside. Data that track changes over time indicate that as many as 385 000 people were lifted from poverty between 2008 and 2014 after moving from rural to urban areas – their poverty levels were halved together with a fall in unemployment. Government ambivalence about urbanisation should be replaced by a more positive and pro-active approach.
The building of large numbers of housing units in isolated greenfield locations has had detrimental side effects on our cities over the last two decades. Yet a series of new megaprojects, designed to accelerate the delivery of housing, is now on the cards. Because they are to be built on cheap peripheral land, these schemes threaten to reinforce urban fragmentation, inefficiency and exclusion.
Informal urban settlements have a poor reputation as hotspots of social unrest, squalor and crime. Yet there is another side to them: as communities that are determined to lift themselves out of poverty via jobs in the city. In a society marked by severe social and spatial inequalities, these places may be useful vehicles for upward mobility. The ambivalence of government policy towards informal settlements needs to be replaced by a more positive approach.