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Rural–urban migration and youth in Bhutan Essay

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Updated: Sep 15th, 2019

Background: Rural-urban migration and youth in Bhutan

Rural-urban migration is a universal concern across the globe. Just like other nations, Bhutan is experiencing mass movement of people, especially youths from rural to urban areas. The bulk of Bhutan’s population is composed of the youth. Actually, more than half of Bhutan population is aged below 25 years.

Due to the increasing youth population, the government faces a challenge of ensuring equilibrium between contemporary beliefs and modernity. Bhutan is experiencing massive changes in its personnel due to rural-urban migration. In addition, the mass movement of people to urban areas has led to unemployment and poverty in urban centers.

According to the 2012 labor survey, over 0.7% of the rural populace migrated to towns. Further, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization showed that about 33% of Bhutan populace is in deficiency of food safety. The poverty analysis report (2007) exhibited that approximately one-third of the rural populace is poor compared to 2% in the urban areas.

Over the last fifty years, Bhutan has experienced rapid growth of its urban areas due to mass movement of populace from the countryside to urban areas. This trend is a major public concern to the state and the government has experienced a number of obstacles in tackling the challenge of rural-urban migration (Rinzin et al., 2005). A number of factors have been proposed in explaining the trend (Yeung, 2005).

Bhutan’s urban populace augments at a yearly rate of 6.5 percent. The prolonged rural-urban inclination is expected to grow four-fold in the coming twenty years, among which a significant proportion are youth. Studies contend that increased need for education by youth has been a significant factor in influencing the movement of people to towns as well as the growth of urban settlements within Bhutan (Kasarda, 2001).

Rural-urban migration has affected negatively on the development of the rural economy. For instance, a number of youths who migrate to urban centers deprive the rural economy of productive labor that is a significant factor of production leading low agricultural performance and high production costs (Kasarda, 2001).

The movement of youths to towns can also be attributed to Bhutan landscape that ranges from subtropical plains to sub-alpine Himalayan Mountains as well as rugged geographical terrains making farming difficult.

According to the Human Development Report (2009), Bhutan accounts for the highest rate of rural-urban migration in South Asia. The government acknowledged the positive impact of the trend since it alleviated the pressure on agricultural land that only composes approximately 9% of nation’s overall area.

However, with steady increase in rural-urban migration over the last fifty years, diverse views have been devised to address the issue. For instance, mitigation of rural-urban migration involves the investment of explicit initiatives such as linking rural development with tourism as well as encouraging youths to go back to the villages and help in the transformation of the economic landscape through farming.

The National Statistical Bureau Report (2005) showed that majority of youths migrate to urban centers to pursue employment prospects as well as better education. Further, the increased inclination of the youth towards moving to urban areas arises from the challenges that the youth face in rural areas such as poor health facilities, unemployment, poor living standards as well as poor lifestyles (Kasarda, 2001).

However, in moving to cities, youth encounter a number of challenges including discrimination, unwelcoming communities, financial deficiencies, lack of parental guidance and harassment. According to Zurick (2006), sexual exploitation, as well as emotional and psychological trauma, poses serious concerns for the youth.

Factors for rural-urban migration in Bhutan

Education

The need for education by the youth has been identified as a major concern contributing to mass rural-urban migration in Bhutan. Due to an inadequate number of secondary and tertiary institutions in rural areas, a large population of youth move to urban centers to pursue educational needs (Frame, 2005).

In essence, education is significant in the acquisition of skills and training that provide a path for the youth to develop their skills leading to securing of jobs in the industries and factories. In fact, a number of youths in the urban vicinities of Bhutan attend training school offering computer, technology and construction courses, thereby increasing their chances of being employed.

Lack of social amenities and facilities in the village

Yeung (2005) asserts that the pace of rural-urban migration in Bhutan is a serious anxiety for the government, owing to its implication on the socio-economic aspects. Several factors play significant roles in encouraging mass movement of populace to urban centers.

Firstly, developments experienced in infrastructure in terms of hospitals, housing, road connectivity and transportation facilities continue to encourage mass movement of populace from rural to urban areas (Radcliffe, 2006). In fact, the UNDP’s human development report (2009) found Bhutan forms the bulk of annual rate of urban migration in South Asia at above five percent.

Family issues

Family issues have been a major factor contributing to rural-urban migration. For instance, families move to cities due to job transfers. In addition, marriages in cities have influenced urban migration. Moreover, relocation desires by family members to settle in urban areas to escape monotony and poverty has shown an increasing trend over the recent past (Radcliffe, 2006).

Rural poverty

Poverty is a major concern for the general Bhutan population accounting for over thirty percent. Over ninety percent of the population in Bhutan resides in the rural areas.

Further, the country’s topography is mainly composed of mountains and valleys, which constrain the prospects of producing food as well as the generation of cash proceeds. Moreover, the rugged terrain leads to deficiency in accessing good quality land resources and diminishes the prospective irrigation facilities (Radcliffe, 2006).

In addition, the rural populace is faced with scarce external inputs and services together with low farm expertise. Therefore, many people have no option but to move to urban areas to search for better livelihoods. Further, Bhutan is characterized with natural catastrophes, including landslides that increase the cost of goods.

Employment prospects and new experiences

Since the bulk of jobs in the rural vicinities of Bhutan are majorly agricultural-oriented, many youths are moving to the cities in search of white-collar jobs. As such, farming activities in the rural neighborhoods compel the youth and other members of the society to move to urban areas in search for employment prospects (Rinzin et al., 2005).

Moreover, a number of people move to towns to fulfill their spirits of adventure and experiences. Through migrating to the urban locations, the people are presented with diverse prospects of arts, living standards, foods as well as leisure activities.

Increasing population

The high population in the rural areas is a major aspect contributing to rural-urban migration. The large percentage of youth (15-24) in Bhutan accounting for over 22% continues to rise steadily. The implications of the rise in the rural areas include poor provision of education services, poor health amenities and unemployment (Frame, 2005).

The factors put pressure on the youth to move to urban centers to look for better services. Further, the increase in the rural youth population increases the pressure on the need to acquire secondary and tertiary levels of education.

However, the pressure results in deficiency of space as well as teachers prompting many people to move to urban vicinities to gain education services.

Impacts of rural-urban migration in Bhutan

Swelling of urban populace

A larger percentage of Bhutan population resides in the rural vicinities accounting for approximately seventy percent. However, over the recent past, the tempo of urbanization has been alarming.

According to the Bhutan Nation Urbanization Strategy 2008, the urban populace has significantly increased over the last decade (1994-2005) by over 100%. The increase in the urban population presents twice the growth of the national population experienced in the same decade (Rizal, 2002).

The rapid growth of population in urban areas comes with its disadvantages. For instance, the unprecedented growth strains the exploitation of the urban services leading to propagation of shanties, inadequate medical facilities, and inadequate drinking water.

Further, the increasing urban population, rates of unemployment, environmental problems including and poor sewerage systems are common in the cities of Thimphu and Phuentsholing.

Land dilapidation and pollution

Bhutan continues to face a serious concern of land dilapidation resulting from human activities as well as innate occurrences such as landslides and floods. In fact, the increasing youth population in the urban centers in search of employment prospects in the industries wields pressure on the ecological and the innate resources in the town vicinities.

For instance, there has been escalating encroachment to forestlands as the populace numbers swell in towns leading to internal biophysical and chemical corrosion (Potter et al., 2004). Further, the increasing populace of the youth in the urban neighborhoods contributes to the emergence of new industries. The industries, in turn, release dangerous emissions into the atmosphere, posing dangerous health concerns to the urban society.

Actually, Bhutan cities continue to record an augmenting inclination of respiratory ailments among its urban populace. Further, the escalation of land fragmentation has increased the deficiency of economies of scales among the youth, thereby blighting their prospects of attaining self-reliance.

Increasing health concerns and social crimes among the youth

The prevalence of early marriages, teenage pregnancies as well as sexually transmitted diseases have been on the increase among the youth in urban cities (Kasarda, 2001). Most importantly, increasing trends in HIV/AIDS infection prevalence have been realized over the past among the youth in Bhutan towns.

Further, due to the increase in the dominance of the HIV/AIDS scourge in the international arena and the neighboring states of Bhutan, the predominance of the virus is expected to increase. Moreover, the increasing rates of unemployment in the urban centers has prompted a number of youths to engage in acts of prostitution thereby posing their lives to the danger of acquiring HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Increased cases of substance abuse by the youth in the urban vicinities of Bhutan also contribute to the predominance of the malady.

For example, the statistical yearbook 2007 reported that crime occurrences related to drugs and narcotics tripled within four years jumping from twenty cases in the year two thousand and one to sixty-five cases in the year two thousand and five. Additionally, unsafe abortions have been on the rise among the urban youths leading higher maternal deaths.

Increasing unemployment rates among the youth in urban centers

Unemployment levels have been on the increase within the urban vicinities of Bhutan. In other words, the large number of people from the villages has created pressure on the available job prospects, waste disposal systems, as well as housing (Zurick, 2006). As a result, many people compete for the inadequate number of jobs rendering a higher percentage of the populace unemployed.

Government initiatives to curb rural-urban migration

The royal government of Bhutan has made remarkable steps to counter the menace of rural-urban migration. First, the government recognizes the constrictions that the increasing urban populaces pose to the resource limits in the towns.

To stem out the increasing rate of rural-urban migration, the production-access-market policy has played significant role in improving living standards within the countryside neighborhoods (Rizal, 2002). In essence, the policy tries to get better rural education systems as well as introduction of market-receptive crops.

Additionally, the initiative aims at improving the access to local road networks, thereby enhancing living standards and retention of larger proportion of populace in the rural areas. Improving the education facilities in the local areas prevents many youths from moving to urban centers since education is the major factor contributing to rural-urban migration among the youth.

The policy also attempts to eliminate factors that encourage movement of families into urban areas through promoting the development of urban centers in vicinities with large number of people as well as commercially feasible areas (Frame, 2005). Further, the government has made tremendous steps in expanding and relocating the rural neighborhoods into new local towns, thereby absorbing the large populace moving to towns.

For instance, the development of Khuruthang town, a commercial and education hub is a success of the initiative. In fact, the center has been significant in absorbing migrants from rural vicinities (Frame, 2005).

Bhutan’s national urbanization strategy has also been invaluable in stemming out the increasing number of youths in urban areas. The policy focuses on improving the well-being of poor rural populace as well as maintaining the sustainability of the ecology.

Further, through the construction of roads in different parts of the country, linkages between different areas of Bhutan have been efficient leading to development of new urban centers (Frame, 2005).

The government has increased awareness among the members of the public on the effects of population growth. Actually, the government has disseminated data related to population growth implications to the citizens through publications as well as electronic media channels.

In addition, the government has increased its focus on the provision of accessible education services and reproductive health services to the youth in both urban and rural vicinities preventing mass movements to urban areas (Frame, 2005).

The creation of an enabling environment where the rural populaces have access to financial and investment opportunities has proven invaluable in containing rural-urban migration. In fact, there have been increased systems that have tremendously expanded employment and benefits to the rural fraternity slowing down the rate of rural-urban migration.

The dynamism experienced in the global fraternity has forced the government to provide solutions to the problems affecting youths and keep them posted on the contemporary issues in the society. A large proportion of Bhutan youths abuse drugs such as marijuana and inhalants as well as alcohol.

The porous frontier of India and Bhutan has increased rates of drug trafficking among youths. The government is addressing the concern of drug abuse through the establishment of treatment and rehabilitation centers. For instance, the youth development fund supports several one drop-in centers.

Education is a major aspect influencing the migration of youth to urban centers. The Bhutanese government is tackling this concern through a number of initiatives. For instance, the government is posting more graduates in the rural education facilities. Further, the government also encourages the media coverage on challenges experienced in urban areas to bring out clearly the real picture of turban environment.

The escalating joblessness in urban centers has occasioned a number of youths to engage in petty crimes and prostitution. However, the Bhutan Foundation has played major roles in countering such concerns. The foundation engages the youth through offering scholarships and education prospects, promotion of sports, music and arts as well as employment opportunities.

The royal government of Bhutan also continues to focus on improving vocational education among the youth in the rural areas through expansion of science, information technology as well as crafts (Rinzin et al., 2005). In addition, strengthening of the training institutions’ capacities in the rural population has proven significant in the prevention of further migrations to the urban centers.

Unemployment among the youth has been found to be one of the major factors contributing to rural-urban migration (Rinzin et al., 2005). As such, the government has focused on a number of initiatives to reduce unemployment as a way of curbing rural-urban movement. For instance, the government is diversifying job prospects across the country.

The development of coordinated and planned urban expansion systems that are equivalent to the rate of migration has been invaluable (Rinzin et al., 2005). Further, the government has been encouraging regional equality through provision of quality services and employment prospects across the country.

Through the establishment of the rural livelihoods funds, the government has been able to mitigate rural-urban migration by initiating programs that improve rural revenue and livelihoods through agricultural development (Frame, 2005).

In fact, the program has realized massive achievements concerning poverty alleviation through the construction of revenue-generating enterprises in the rural areas such as Lamtang and Pam-Chaibi, among others.

References

Frame, B. 2005. “Bhutan: a review of its approach to sustainable development,” Development Practice, vol.15 no.2, pp.216-221.

Kasarda, JD 2001, “Third world urbanization: dimensions, theories, and determinants,” Annual Review of Sociology, vol.17 no.3, pp.467-501.

Potter, RT, Elliott, BJ & Smith, D 2004, Geographies of development, Pearson /Prentice Hall, Harlow, England.

Radcliffe, S 2006, Culture and development in a globalizing world: geographies, actors, and paradigms, Routledge, London.

Rinzin, A, Chophel, T, Peljor, N & Jambayang, T 2005, “Rural—Urban migration in Bhutan: policy and planning,” Urban Studies, vol.33 no.7, pp.1045-1060.

Rizal, D 2002, “Administrative system in Bhutan: retrospect & prospect,” Asian Affairs, vol.30 no.3, pp.284-295.

Yeung, HWC 2005, “Rethinking relational economic geography,” Transactions, Institute of British Geographers, vol.30 no.1, pp.37-51.

Zurick, D 2006, “Gross national happiness and environmental status in Bhutan,” Geographical Review, vol.96 no.4, pp.657-681.

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