SLUMS: THE CAUSES
source: UN-HABITAT,The Challenge of Slums: Global Report on Human Settlement, Earthscan, London 2003
Slums come about because of, and are perpetuated by, a number of forces. Among these are rapid rural-to-urban migration, increasing urban poverty and inequality, insecure tenure, and globalisation – all contribute to the creation and continuation of slums…
- in many developing countries, squatters or informal settlers form close to the majority of urban dwellers and thus live in poverty without civic amenities, because urban development policies have not kept up with urban growth;
- rapid rural-urban migration: since 1950, the proportion of people working in developing country agriculture has declined by 20 to 30%. The immigrant urban poor have largely moved from the countryside to the cities voluntarily, in order to exploit actual or perceived economic opportunities. Opportunities manifest in part, due to the growing urban informal sector which in many cities accounts for as much as 60% of employment; (1)
- throughout Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and in selected countries elsewhere, millions of people move back and forth between urban and rural places to take advantage of income-earning opportunities - a phenomenon known as circular migration. Temporary migrants can cause large swings in population size. In some cities of China, for instance, temporary migrants are estimated to count for between 1/5 and 1/3 of the total population. Circular migration is often tied to seasonal patterns or agricultural cycles. Very often temporary migrants do not have a place to live in and are forced to occupy illegal settlements;
- slums are mainly (not exclusively) a urban phenomenon. In urban areas unlike rural areas, access to virtually all goods and services depends on having a cash income. Urban residents have to buy most of their food while rural residents grow a substantial portion of their own food and food prices often are higher in urban areas than in the countryside. As a consequence, low-income people have little o no money to rent houses;
- progressive decay in basic infrastructure such as piped water, electricity, sewerage, and roads have prompted people in large African cities like Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to move to unplanned settlements on the urban periphery where land is cheapest;
- around the world, an estimated 20 million to 40 million urban families are homeless, some because they have been evicted and some because they cannot afford any housing, even illegally;
- people escaping political conflicts in the rural areas and smaller cities of such countries as Liberia and Mozambique have contributed to big-city growth rates exceeding 7% a year over long periods - a rate at which the population would double in just 10 years. This has often led to a rapid increase of informal settlements;
- the lack of secure tenure is a primary reason why slums persist. Without secure tenure, slum-dwellers have few ways and little incentive to improve their surroundings. Secure tenure is often a precondition for access to other economic and social opportunities, including credit, public services, and livelihood opportunities. It is particularly difficult for the urban poor to obtain tenure because property registration processes are complicated and expensive. The process is even more difficult in the case of informal settlements. Many governments hesitate to legalize them for fear of encouraging more illegal settlements.
(1) In 30 of 40 developing countries surveyed by the International Labor Organization in 1999, employment in the urban informal sector constituted over 1/3 of total urban employment.