Migration and urbanisation in South Africa

Type Report
Title Migration and urbanisation in South Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2006
Publisher Statistics South Africa
City Pretoria
Country/State South Africa
URL http://www.statssa.gov.za/publications/Report-03-04-02/Report-03-04-02.pdf
In policy debates and in the popular press, migration and urbanisation are often viewed in a negative light, almost as if they were undesirable problems that need to be rectified or threats that must be avoided. Looked at from this angle, being sedentary and immobile seems to be regarded as the ‘right thing to do’. Often governments in urbanising countries want to slow down or reverse rural-urban migration, not taking into account the fact that migration is often central to households’ livelihoods (De Haan 2000: 24). What is not understood is the various forms that migration takes in different settings and that each form may have different outcomes in terms of health or socio-economic status. A case that will be brought out in another Stats SA publication is a consideration of temporary labour migration versus definitive migration, a classification that has unique contours in the Southern African situation. Migration ‘is often seen as the consequence of ruptures, of environmental disaster, economic exploitation, or political or civil tensions and violence. And it is often perceived to be a cause of problems, like environmental degradation, health problems, “brain drain”, political or social instability, declining law and order, and unravelling social fabric and support systems’ (De Haan, 2000: 1). Viewed from these perspectives, it is no wonder that migration tends to be associated only with problems. What may not always be understood and appreciated is the fact that migration and urbanisation are processes that offer hope for the future – at least from the point of view of the individual or household concerned.1 Recent work on the Agincourt Health and Demographic Surveillance System has shown a positive correlation of household asset ownership in a rural household if there is a temporary migrant linked to the household (Collinson et al, 2005).\nMigration and urbanisation are therefore processes surrounded by a great deal of controversy, and in this report an attempt is made to dispel some misconceptions about these two interrelated processes. The aim of the report will be to describe the different forms of migration and relate them to urbanisation, examining causes and consequences of migration and urbanisation and drawing some conclusions from the research for the purposes of policymaking and planning. While this report does not deal directly with international and cross-border migration, some reference will be made to these processes as well. Urbanisation is affected not only by internal migration but also by migratory moves from across the country’s borders.

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