Why is India urbanising slowly? Why do some cities grow faster than others? This paper examines the nature of urbanisation and urban growth in India since the late 19th century against the backdrop of the unfolding demographic transition. It argues that (a) Urbanisation within India exhibits a tight relationship with economic growth at the regional level (b) The demographic divergence between rural and urban natural growth rates since the 1970s that is attributed to stagnant agricultural productivity and rural literacy levels in large parts of India has slowed down the pace of urbanization, especially in the Northern hinterlands (c) City population growth rates peaked in the 1980s and will see a marked deceleration in the coming decades with substantial variations driven by investments in specific sectors such as Information & Technology (d) Human capital externalities in a period of demographic transition draw in migrants but also reduce fertility such that its relationship with city growth rates, as observed in Indian data is mixed (e) Labour mobility in India is high but is mostly male-dominated, semi-permanent, and remittance-based in nature leading to masculine urbanisation with important implications for urban growth and urbanisation. By integrating the demographic transition with urban processes, this paper explains India’s relatively slow pace of urbanization, the inter-city variation in population growth rates and the paradox of faster urban growth combined with slower urbanization in the North relative to the South.
Chinmay Tumbe is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A). He has worked in academic, corporate and government institutions in India, UK and Italy and his research has been featured in journals, newspapers and policy portals. He holds a Masters from the London School of Economics and a doctorate from the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. He was the Jean Monnet Fellow at the Migration Policy Centre, European University Institute in Florence, Italy in 2013 and was with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences Hyderabad in 2014-16. His research interests lie in migration studies, urban economics and business and economic history.
This is the eighty-first in a series of Urban Workshops planned by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), New Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops seek to provoke public discussion on issues relating to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society and politics. For further information, please contact: Christine Ithurbide at email@example.com, Partha Mukhopadhyay at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marie-Hélène Zerah at email@example.com