This House believes that developing nations should place restrictions on rural-urban migration

Urbanisation is what once formed civilisation. When we as a species transitioned from living in small communities that were dedicated to farming and small scale production to cities in which large amounts of people were gathered to produce and to consume, the stage was set, first for the Renaissance and later for the industrial revolution. In today’s society, urbanisation is still the trend, in 2010 the world for the first time had more than half of the world’s population lived in towns and cities and this is projected to increase to 60% by 2030.[1] While international migration often exercises national politics internal migration is much larger in terms of total numbers; while there were 190million international migrants in 2005, China alone had around the same number of internal migrants.[2] However, with increased mobility and a smaller need for manual labour, it is been put into doubt whether the cities can handle the vast amounts of people who enter on a daily basis. This is particularly problematic in developing nations where any city already has innate problems which might be exacerbated by the influx of more people. In major cities, such as Nairobi and Johannesburg, large townships have appeared,[3] often as large in themselves as major European cities, where poor people lead a parallel existence, separated from the urban community. Attempts have been made, in particular in China, to impose policies that keep people in the rural communities from moving into the cities, in order to stem the flow of domestic migration.[4] China’s Hukou system is one of China’s major social controls with the aim of directly regulating population distribution. It links Chinese citizens access to state benefits, and sometimes jobs, to the individual staying where they are registered. This does not prevent rural to urban migration, as it is possible to change status, but it does attempt to control migration.[5]

In this debate the government would make it illegal for people in the countryside to move into the cities without first receiving permission from the authorities. Failing to recognise the ban would lead to deportation to the community from whence the individual came and possibly other sanctions. This could be done through border controls or more probably by linking each individual’s identity to their community, by means of passports or social identity numbers, to make it impossible to live a functional life in the city without permission.

[1] Global Health Observatory, “Urban population growth”, World Health Organisation, http://www.who.int/gho/urban_health/situation_trends/urban_population_growth_text/en/index.html

[2] Skeldon, Ron, “On Migration and the Policy Process”, Sussex Centre for Migration Research, August 2007, http://www.migrationdrc.org/publications/working_papers/WP-T20.pdf p.17

[3] Maxwell, Daniel., “The Political Economy of Urban Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa.” 11, London : Elsevier Science Ltd., 1999, World Development, Vol. 27, p. 1939±1953. S0305-750X(99)00101-1.

[4] Dikötter, Frank. Mao's Great Famine. London : Walker & Company, 2010. 0802777686.

[5] Chan, Kam Wing, and Zhang, Li, “The Hukou System and Rural-Urban Migration in China: Processes and Changes*”, The China Quarterly, 1999, http://www.upf.edu/materials/huma/central/historia/xinaXXI/lectures/Chan0.pd. P.823

 

Title 
The government has a right to make decisions in the best interest of the people
Point 

Man is a social being. Therefore people live in communities where decisions that affect the many, are taken by representatives of the many. Thus, a social contract exists between the people and their government.[1] In exchange for part of their autonomy and freedom, the government ensures that policies are made in the best interest of people, even if this might come at the expense of short-term interests for some individuals. This is a typical example of this kind of case. The trend is emptying the countryside, stopping the production of agricultural goods and hollowing the amenities provided by the cities. Even if each individual has a personal incentive to move to the cities, the harm to the cities is greater than their accumulated individual gains. It is in these cases that the state must act to protect its people and ensure long term benefits.

[1] D'Agostino, Fred, Gaus, Gerald and Thrasher, John, "Contemporary Approaches to the Social Contract", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/contractarianism-contemporary/

Counterpoint 

The government has a right to make some decisions on behalf of the people, but not any decision. Once the state acts against one group of people to further the interest of an already privileged group of people it loses this right as the state exists to protect everyone in society not just the majority or a privileged group. This is precisely the case in this motion. People who live in rural areas are already disenfranchised and condemned to terrible conditions, and the proposal only serves those who want their comfortable bourgeois life to be even more comfortable.

Title 
Restrictions on migration would benefit people in the cities economically and socially
Point 

Cities are very appealing to poor people. Even if their living standards in cities might be unacceptable, they get closer to basic goods, such as fresh water, sanitation etc. However, these things exist because there are productive people in the cities who work and pay taxes. What happens when too many people come at the same time is that public money is stretched too thinly and these basic goods can no longer be provided. This leads to severe humanitarian problems such as malnutrition, thirst, lack of medication, etc.

However, this humanitarian crisis does not only harm those directly affected, it also creates an unattractive environment for business. Thus, people who enter the city cannot find work, as production does not grow in relation to the people who enter. They become excluded from society and often turn to crime, which further erodes the economy.[1]

Limiting migration to reasonable levels give the cities a chance to develop progressively and become the kind of places that people in rural areas currently believe them to be.

[1] Maxwell, Daniel., “The Political Economy of Urban Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa.” 11, London : Elsevier Science Ltd., 1999, World Development, Vol. 27, p. 1939±1953. S0305-750X(99)00101-1.

Counterpoint 

People who move to the cities have chosen to move from their families and dear ones, because they want to create a new and better life for themselves. Armed with great motivation, they enter the cities and are often prepared to undertake work that others do not want to do, hoping to climb the social ladder later on. Interestingly it is often the case that those in slums have a higher rate of employment than those not living in slums. In Uganda for example only 9% of young men are neither in school or employment compared to 16% for those not living in slums.[1] This benefits the development of the city and it is only with this extra workforce that the city can fully develop, thus most big cities have at some point had slums, such as London’s East End in the 19th Century. It might take time, but for the long-term benefits of the cities, rural-urban migration should be promoted. An example of this slow kind of development is the progress that is seen today in Kibera outside of Nairobi where small parts of the shanty-towns are gradually converted into lower middle-class communities.

[1] Mboup, Gora, “Measurement/indicators of youth employment”, Expert Group Meeting on Strategies for Creating Urban Youth Employment Solutions for Urban Youth in Africa, June 2004, www.un.org/esa/socdev/social/presentation/urban_mboup.ppt

Title 
Restrictions would benefit rural areas
Point 

Unlimited rural-urban migration erodes the economy of the cities, as shown in the previous argument, and limits their economic growth and available resources. On a national level, this causes decision makers to prioritise the cities, as the country relies more on urban than rural areas, thus preventing them from investing in the country-side.[1] China is a good example of this where urban privilege has become entrenched with ‘special economic zones’ being created in urban areas (though sometimes built from scratch in rural areas) with money being poured into infrastructure for the urban areas which as a result have rapidly modernised leaving rural areas behind. This leads to a whole culture of divisions where urbanites consider those from rural areas to be backward and less civilized.[2]

Moreover, there will be little other reason to invest in rural areas, as the workforce in those areas has left for the cities. By preserving resources in the cities and keeping the workforce in the rural areas, it becomes possible to invest in rural communities and change their lives for the better as these areas maintain the balanced workforce necessary to attract investors.

[1] Maxwell, Daniel., “The Political Economy of Urban Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa.” 11, London : Elsevier Science Ltd., 1999, World Development, Vol. 27, p. 1939±1953. S0305-750X(99)00101-1.

[2] Whyte, Martin King, “Social Change and the Urban-Rural Divide in China”, China in the 21st Century, June 2007, http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/martinwhyte/files/social_change_and_the_urban-rural_divide_in_china.pdf p.54

Counterpoint 

The argument is based on the idea that there is a lot of investment that is just waiting to be made in rural areas. In reality, this is not so. Until there are real investors who are prepared to change the conditions of rural areas in developing countries, it is morally bankrupt to force people to remain in an untenable situation as marketing material for hypothetical investment.

Title 
Poor, uneducated people are lured into cities
Point 

The cause of rural-urban migration in developing nations and the main reason why it becomes problematic is that people who move to the cities are not making informed decisions. They are led to believe that the cities contain opportunities that they cannot find where they live, and there are no mechanisms such as efficient media or adequate education to eradicate this misconception.[1] Myths can be easily propagated by a single successful migrant returning home to visit that then attracts many others to try their luck without any knowledge of the possible costs.[2] This is exacerbated by unscrupulous organisations that prey on their desperation to take all their money to organise their move to the city. Some of those who are trafficked find themselves brought to the city and exploited through forced labour, begging, or even prostitution.[3] Many of those who move to cities find themselves in a worse situation but have lost any moving power they originally had and are thus trapped.

[1] Zhan, Shaohua. “What Determines Migrant Workers' Life Chances in Contemporary China? Hukou, Social Exclusion, and the Market.” 243, 2011, Vol. 37.

[2] Waibel, Hermann, and Schmidt, Erich, “Urban-rural relations”, in Feeding Asian Cities: Food Production and Processing Issues,  FAO, November 2000, http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/X6998E/x6998e04.htm#TopOfPage

[3] “UNIAP Vietnam”, United Nations Inter Agency Project on Human Trafficking, accessed March 2013, http://www.no-trafficking.org/vietnam_who.html

Counterpoint 

The principle at the heart of this debate is that of the rights of the individual. While it might be true that a large group of people make uninformed decisions, a ban on any decisions in relation to where people live will keep the individuals from making any decisions, informed and uninformed. The damage to those who actually could improve their lives greatly outweighs the benefits, especially as the resources that would be needed for this policy could be used to educate and inform people in rural areas and thus improve the basis of their decisions.

Title 
Freedom of movement is an intrinsic human right
Point 

Every human being is born with certain rights. These are protected by various charters and are considered inseparable from the human being. The reason for this is a belief that these rights create the fundamental and necessary conditions to lead a human life. Freedom of movement is one of these and has been recognised as such in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[1] If a family finds themselves faced with starvation, the only chance they have of survival might be to move to another place where they might live another day. It is inhuman to condemn individuals to death and suffering for the benefit of some nebulous collective theory. While we might pass some of our freedoms to the state, we have a moral right to the freedoms that help us stay alive – in this context freedom of movement is one of those.

[1] General Assembly, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, 10 December 1948, http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

Counterpoint 

Freedom of movement is not an intrinsic human right, but rather a right that can and should be given by the state where it is possible. For example the state puts people into prisons; this infringes their freedom of movement. This is partially as punishment, but the core rationale for this is to protect the people outside of the prison from potentially dangerous people.[1] But for that, there would be significantly cheaper and more efficient ways of punishing criminals. The people whose freedom of movement is restricted are a threat to people living in the cities and to the economy of the nation as a whole. In the better interest of the nation and to protect innocent people whose lives will be damaged by unrestricted migration, these people must accept restricted freedom of movement.

[1] See the debatabase debate ‘This House believes criminal justice should focus more on rehabilitation

Title 
It is practically impossible to control people's movement
Point 

One of the major problems with the proposal lies in the very fact that we are indeed dealing with developing nations. These nations have very limited capacity to manage this kind of system. What will happen instead, will be a state of confusion, where the law will be upheld in some parts while ignored in others. The case in China clearly shows that corruption follows in the wake of this kind of legislation, where urban Hukous are sold illegally or officials are frequently bribed to ignore the law.[1]

Furthermore, it only causes those who choose to move to the cities, in spite of the law, to be alienated from society and live a life outside of the law. Once outside of the law, the step to other crimes is very small as these people have little to lose.[2] In short, the law will only work in some cases and where it works it will lead to increased segregation and more crime.

[1] Wang, Fei-Ling. “Organising through Division and Exclusion: China's Hukou System". 2005.

[2] Wu. s.l., and Treiman, The Household Registration System and Social Stratification in China: 1955-1996. Springer, 2004, Demography, Vol. 2. 

Counterpoint 

No amount of confusion can compare with the nearly anarchical state of places like Nairobi, where there is no law and very little state.[1]  In the current situation where there is a menacing trend that threatens the very fabric of society, even if the law would not work to its full effect, it is better for it to work partially than not to have it at all. Corruption is a separate issue that already festers in these regions under the status quo and does not need this extra policy to thrive. This must be dealt with separately, but it is indeed regrettable if a good policy is kept from being put into practice from fear of a phenomenon that is in no manner causally contingent upon the policy.

[1] Maxwell, Daniel., “The Political Economy of Urban Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa.” 11, London : Elsevier Science Ltd., 1999, World Development, Vol. 27, p. 1939±1953. S0305-750X(99)00101-1. 

Title 
Rural life is miserable and has higher mortality rates than cities
Point 

This planet does not find worse living standards anywhere than in the rural areas of developing countries. These are the areas where famine, child mortality and diseases (such as AIDS) plague the people.[1] China’s Hukou system has condemned millions of people to premature death by locking them in areas that never will develop.[2] While the cities enjoy the benefits of 12% growth, the villages are as poor and deprived as ever.[3] It is a poorly concealed policy aimed at maintaining a gaping social cleavage and allowing the rich to remain rich.

[1] Maxwell, Daniel., “The Political Economy of Urban Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa.” 11, London : Elsevier Science Ltd., 1999, World Development, Vol. 27, p. 1939±1953. S0305-750X(99)00101-1.

[2] Dikötter, Frank. Mao's Great Famine. London : Walker & Company, 2010. 0802777686.

[3] Wang, Fei-Ling. “Organising through Division and Exclusion: China's Hukou System". 2005.

Counterpoint 

This kind of argument underestimates the capacity of human potential. People in rural communities devote all their efforts and their creativity towards getting to the cities because they believe it is the best for them and their families. If they do not have this option, they can devote that energy to their community and make it grow to compete with the cities. It is then the duty of the government that imposes this restriction to support such commitments by giving them the right conditions to improve their situation by investing in rural areas as much as urban ones.

Title 
Restrictions cause an incredible loss of potential
Point 

One of the best things about a functioning developed nation is that young people can choose their profession. Apart from this being beneficial for the individual, this means that the best suited person for a given trade will often be the same that pursues it. If we prevent people from moving freely we deprive the cities of talented people whose talents and skills are much better suited for urban professions than for rural jobs. In short, this policy would make farmers out of the potential lawyers, politicians, doctors, teachers etc. Indeed this is the whole basis of most models of migration, people leave rural areas because there is surplus labour in that area while the cities needs new workers.[1]

[1] Taylor, J. Edward, and Martin, Philip L., “Human Capital: Migration and Rural Population Change”, Handbook of Agricultural Economicshttp://agecon.ucdavis.edu/people/faculty/j.%20edward-taylor/docs/human.pdf

Counterpoint 

While factually true for developed nations, this point completely disregards the reality of developing nations. Most of the labour that is available is unskilled, whether it is in the rural or urban communities. There is little reason to believe that the poor will automatically be able to gain better education should they move to the city. The harm caused by letting migrants flood the cities to lead a miserable life greatly outweighs that of having one or two too intelligent farmers who miss out on their calling.

Bibliography 

Chan, Kam Wing, and Zhang, Li, “The Hukou System and Rural-Urban Migration in China: Processes and Changes*”, The China Quarterly, 1999, http://www.upf.edu/materials/huma/central/historia/xinaXXI/lectures/Chan0.pd

D'Agostino, Fred, Gaus, Gerald and Thrasher, John, "Contemporary Approaches to the Social Contract", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/contractarianism-contemporary/

Dikötter, Frank. Mao's Great Famine. London : Walker & Company, 2010. 0802777686.

General Assembly, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, 10 December 1948, http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

Global Health Observatory, “Urban population growth”, World Health Organisation, http://www.who.int/gho/urban_health/situation_trends/urban_population_growth_text/en/index.html

Maxwell, Daniel., “The Political Economy of Urban Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa.” 11, London : Elsevier Science Ltd., 1999, World Development, Vol. 27, p. 1939±1953. S0305-750X(99)00101-1.

Mboup, Gora, “Measurement/indicators of youth employment”, Expert Group Meeting on Strategies for Creating Urban Youth Employment Solutions for Urban Youth in Africa, June 2004, www.un.org/esa/socdev/social/presentation/urban_mboup.ppt

Skeldon, Ron, “On Migration and the Policy Process”, Sussex Centre for Migration Research, August 2007, http://www.migrationdrc.org/publications/working_papers/WP-T20.pdf

Taylor, J. Edward, and Martin, Philip L., “Human Capital: Migration and Rural Population Change”, Handbook of Agricultural Economics, http://agecon.ucdavis.edu/people/faculty/j.%20edward-taylor/docs/human.pdf

“UNIAP Vietnam”, United Nations Inter Agency Project on Human Trafficking, accessed March 2013, http://www.no-trafficking.org/vietnam_who.html

Waibel, Hermann, and Schmidt, Erich, “Urban-rural relations”, in Feeding Asian Cities: Food Production and Processing Issues,  FAO, November 2000, http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/X6998E/x6998e04.htm#TopOfPage

Wang, Fei-Ling. “Organising through Division and Exclusion: China's Hukou System". 2005.

Whyte, Martin King, “Social Change and the Urban-Rural Divide in China”, China in the 21st Century, June 2007, http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/martinwhyte/files/social_change_and_the_urban-rural_divide_in_china.pdf

Wu. s.l., and Treiman, The Household Registration System and Social Stratification in China: 1955-1996. Springer, 2004, Demography, Vol. 2.

Zhan, Shaohua. “What Determines Migrant Workers' Life Chances in Contemporary China? Hukou, Social Exclusion, and the Market.” 243, 2011, Vol. 37.

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