Policy Engagements and Blogs

Film: ‘Small City Dreaming’, on the working lives of migrants in small cities

February 27, 2019


The high-pitched debate about data on employment and job creation in India has only served to highlight that the paucity of quality employment is a serious barrier to economic mobility, especially for young people who are moving off the farm. In order to leverage the oft-discussed demographic dividend, however, policymakers need a clear picture of ‘where’ structural transformation is actually happening.

Through this research project titled ‘The role of small cities in shaping employment outcomes for migrant youth’, the Centre for Policy Research and JustJobs Network draw policy attention to the potential of range of non-metropolitan urban locations, including secondary cities, small towns, densifying and urbanising villages and peri-urban spaces – collectively referred to as small cities – to improve employment opportunities for a vast proportion of young people in emerging economies. Using the cases of two cities each in India and Indonesia, the research project has studied the types of mobilities and migration small cities experience, the labour market experiences of youth in these cities, as well as the governance and planning frameworks that address key issues in economic development, employment and migration. Central to the project are the young men and women that have been the subjects of enquiry: their dreams and aspirations and their strategies for navigating pathways towards economic mobility.

Small City Dreaming is a short documentary film that offers a glimpse into the working lives of young people in small cities in India and Indonesia. It explores the connections between villages and small cities through the work journeys of three characters: Oscar in Kupang, in eastern Indonesia; Bhagchand in Kishangarh, Rajasthan, India; and Latifah in Semarang Regency, Central Java, Indonesia. Seeing the small city through their eyes, we learn that even as many young people in small cities remain stuck in dead-end jobs, others use networks and skills learned in the city to become entrepreneurs. The depictions of the daily lives of Oscar, Bhagchand and Latifah and their articulations of their struggles and dreams are intended to urge audiences to move beyond the dominant uni-dimensional imaginations of village-to-metropolis migrations to explore multiple kinds of migrations and mobilities, often across territorial entities that do not neatly fit into our understanding of the ‘village’ and the ‘city’.