Counter Urbanisation | Meaning, Factors, Effects and Examples

What do you understand by Counter Urbanisation?

Urban growth or urbanisation refers to the growth in urban population in an area over the period of time. Whereas counter urbanisation is said to occur when an urban area starts losing its population or when there is decrease in the population of an urban area. In other words when population loss of urban core exceeds the population gain of the ring of agglomeration resulting in loss in overall population then counter urbanisation is said to take place.

It can also be defined as a demographic or social process whereby people move from urban areas to rural areas which is generally due to depreciation or overcrowding of inner city. This is the condition developed in cities of developed nations as a result of densification and high population growth due to natural growth and migration. This growth also leads to congestion is city to which people reacts by moving outside the cities. This is seen as an option by those who can afford to travel back to city daily for their work, on the other hand Counter Urbanisation is not seen in case of poor cities as poor cannot afford to travel a large distance daily and also because of the nature of work they do requires them to be in proximity of workplace.

Related: Hoyt Model or Sector ModelMultiple Nuclei ModelRank-Size RuleSatellite City

Factors responsible for counter urbanisation

Counter urbanisation is considered to be a negative sign for any urban area. Examples of areas undergoing counter urbanisation are very less as the overall population more or less remains same over the time or in a general case increases over time. One such example includes Newcastle-upon Tyne in Britain which underwent decrease in urban population because of the collapse of industrial activity with the core of city.  There are number of factors responsible for counter urbanisation which include economic factors, social factors, increasing problems within city, crime rates, migration etc.

Counter Urbanisation push and pull factors

Economic factors: Cities are considered to be engines of economic growth and people migrate to cities in search of better employment opportunities. But when city stops offering the jobs and prospects of better income then the attractiveness of a city decreases. This might happen due to continuous loss of business, change in policies, shift of industries etc.

Migration: This is the most important factor which informs about the counter urbanisation. An overall decrease in population clearly indicates this. The push and pull factors from the affected urban area and the surrounding areas play a large role in triggering the migration in search of better opportunities.

Policies: Policies framed by government can have a large-scale impact over both urban and rural areas. However the impact and the need to regulate activities is more in urban areas as compared to rural areas thus the visible difference is associated with cities. Shifting of polluting activities mainly industries, decentralisation of economic activities, redevelopment projects, population de-densification, increased taxes, inability to provide basic amenities, failure to control crimes, increase in land and housing price etc are responsible for loss of urban population. Government plays a large role in managing and providing the facilities and services which people require on a regular basis.

Technology: Evolution of technology provided a more control over life for mankind, in many cases the need to travel decreased and thus the need to live within an urban area or to visit urban area also reduced in some cases. The rapidly growing concept of work from home is good enough for some to stay and work in rural area than to migrate to cities. Similarly mobile phones, better education and health services in rural areas decreases the need for migration to cities.

Living conditions: Living conditions in an area have a direct impact on the residents. Everyone wish to live at a place with good quality of life and better living conditions. If a city fails to maintain its basic infrastructure or faces epidemic or some other issue affecting masses than it’s a warning sign and strong factor of out-migration. Industrial areas are known for poor environmental conditions which have negative impact on health, similar is the case for areas located near mines.

There can be a number of other reasons for counter urbanisation which can be people specific, due to deteriorating condition of city, natural calamity, lack of attractiveness or lack of economic opportunities in the urban area.
Possible reason for population decline can be out-migration, decline in birth rate or increase in death rate. People might move to other areas which offer better quality of life and a better price. Cities which neglect spending on social services and public welfare witness counter urbanisation, and it needs to be dealt with care. Many of the cities provide incentives in form of tax rebates, relaxations, reduced property tax or development charges to attract people to tackle counter urbanisation.

Effect and consequences of counter urbanisation

Any place needs a threshold population for the activities to continue. A small change in population does not have adverse effect on this threshold population but a large or sudden movement of people or economic activities outside the city might result in collapse of the city. Once the number of people supporting the whole financial system decreases the burden of expenditure to maintain current standard or even to provide the a particular service falls on the remaining population. per capita expenditure of residents increases if they wish to avail that facility or service. This additional burden or the deterioration of the facilities will ultimately force the people who were initially unwilling to leave the city to move to different place. If immediate actions are not taken by the concerned agency than prolonged counter urbanisation results in decay and ultimately collapse or the urban area. Such cities and town might take shape of ghost towns.

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