A crowded city is the sign of a good thing for Indonesians

A traffic jam in the increasingly crowded streets of Jakarta. Image: Getty, December 2013.

Every September, a month after the Eid holiday exodus that nearly empties the city, Jakarta returns to its normal crowded self. Afterwards, though, the Indonesian capital has around 68,000 more residents. 

Every year thousands of people move to Jakarta with the return flow of the holiday exodus. These migrations are often reported negatively in the media, who would mix up the term "migration" with "urbanisation".

Like many countries, Indonesia has an annual tradition of travelling to one’s home town during religious holidays. In Indonesia, it is called mudik. This year, around 3.6m people traveled from Jakarta to their home towns in Java and other parts of Indonesia, according to a survey by the University of Indonesia Demographic Institute.

Mudik reflects the strength of social cohesion amid the change towards a post-modern industrial society. During mudik, the social and geographic distance between groups of different professions and economic status become shorter. Almost everyone, from the bank CEO to the streetside vendor, goes on mudik.

When the holiday is over, they return to Jakarta. Some bring their relatives or friends with them.

The media often describe the process of urbanisation in Indonesia only through the phenomenon of new migrants to Jakarta. But this is an incomplete representation of urbanisation. Migration can be part of urbanisation, but it isn't always.

Urbanisation means the changing way of life from rural to urban living. It also means the changing characteristics of an area from having qualities of village life to city life.

Urbanisation does not always entail someone moving from the village to the city. Pondok Cina, a sub-district next to the University of Indonesia’s Depok campus on the outskirts of Jakarta, was once a rural village area. Now, the population density has increased to more than 5,000 people per square kilometre.

Less than a quarter of the residents farm. And it has urban facilities. Pondok Cina has turned into an urban village.

From an economic perspective, urbanisation is often linked with progress and economic development in an area. Therefore, it is concentrated in a number of locations, especially in big cities and more specifically in national capitals.

Young people looking for work move to Jakarta, which is booming with new constructions. Image: EPA/MAST IRHAM.

The danger of misrepresentation

When people understand urbanisation wrongly, they can make wrong conclusions, and policymakers might create bad policies. Many city administrators say they want to prevent urbanisation. They actually mean they want to prevent migration from rural areas to the city.

Before Indonesia's president Joko Widodo became governor of Jakarta, the city administration held yearly ID raids on bus terminals after the Eid exodus. Those who don’t have IDs would be bused back to cities in Central or East Java.

Jakarta has stopped the practice, but other cities still do it. Almost always, the poor become the target of the raids. Their social and physical mobility are confined.

Migration as a symptom of urbanisation should be seen as a positive thing. It happens naturally and it is normal for an area that is undergoing urbanisation.

Jakarta is one of the cities in Indonesia with rapid progress and economic development. Moving to big cities such as Jakarta is a rational choice for young people: those who move to big cities usually have better skills and education levels than those who stay in the villages.

Jakarta’s nearly 10m registered residents include 4m lifetime migrants, according to the 2010 census. These are people who were born outside Jakarta, but live in the city at the time of the census.

According to the 2010 census, Jakarta had just 3.5m lifetime migrants. This means that 500,000 people have moved to Jakarta in 10 years.

The movement of people from villages to the city is the biggest factor that influences the urbanisation process. Often people from the villages move temporarily to the city to stay for less than six months. These new migrants come to the city and live with family, relatives or friends. They look for additional income through off-farm employment.

People living in villages often earn their income from traditional farming, which would not be enough to sustain their lives. Migration from village to cities for work should be seen as a mechanism to distribute wealth from the cities to the village.

Urbanisation in Indonesia is most obvious in Jakarta; but other cities are changing, too. Regions that have high urbanisation rates such as North Sumatera and Riau have higher GDPs than those with low urbanisation rates. There is a positive correlation between urbanisation rate, economic progress and population growth.

The urban population in Indonesia has increased from 14.8 per cent in 1971, to 49.8 per cent in 2010. By 2025, around 68 per cent of the population will be living in cities; by 2045, it'll be 82 per cent.

Mudik perpetuates the urbanisation process in Indonesian villages. A couple of years from now, people could find their once-rural village has transformed into a small city. The Conversation

Chotib Hasan is a researcher with the Demographic Institute at the University of Indonesia. He does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 
 
 
 

Was the decline in Liverpool’s historic population really that unusual?

A view of Liverpool from Birkenhead. Image: Getty.

It is often reported that Liverpool’s population halved after the 1930s. But is this true? Or is it a myth?

Often, it’s simply assumed that it’s true. The end. Indeed, proud Londoner Lord Adonis – a leading proponent of the Liverpool-bypassing High Speed 2 railway, current chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, and generally a very influential person – stood on the stairs in Liverpool Town Hall in 2011 and said:

“The population of Liverpool has nearly halved in the last 50 years.”

This raises two questions. Firstly, did the population of the City of Liverpool really nearly halve in the 50 year period to 2011? That’s easy to check using this University of Portsmouth website – so I did just that (even though I knew he was wrong anyway). In 2011, the population of the City of Liverpool was 466,415. Fifty years earlier, in 1961, it was 737,637, which equates to a 37 per cent drop. Oops!

In fact, the City of Liverpool’s peak population was recorded in the 1931 Census as 846,302. Its lowest subsequent figure was recorded in the 2001 Census as 439,428 – which represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over a 70 year period.

Compare this to the population figures for the similarly sized City of Manchester. Its peak population also recorded in the 1931 Census as 748,729, and its lowest subsequent figure was also recorded in the 2001 Census, as 392,830. This also represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over the same 70 year period.

So, as can be seen here, Liverpool is not a special case at all. Which makes me wonder why it is often singled out or portrayed as exceptional in this regard, in the media and, indeed, by some badly briefed politicians. Even London has a similar story to tell, and it is told rather well in this recent article by a Londoner, for the Museum of London. (Editor’s note: It’s one of mine.)

This leads me onto the second question: where have all those people gone: London? The Moon? Mars?

Well, it turns out that the answer is bit boring and obvious actually: after World War 2, lots of people moved to the suburbs. You know: cars, commuter trains, slum clearance, the Blitz, all that stuff. In other words, Liverpool is just like many other places: after the war, this country experienced a depopulation bonanza.


So what form did this movement to the suburbs take, as far as Liverpool was concerned? Well, people moved and were moved to the suburbs of Greater Liverpool, in what are now the outer boroughs of the city region: Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral. Others moved further, to Cheshire West & Chester, West Lancashire, Warrington, even nearby North Wales, as previously discussed here.

In common with many cities, indeed, Liverpool City Council actually built and owned large several ‘New Town’ council estates, to which they moved tens of thousands of people to from Liverpool’s inner districts: Winsford in Cheshire West (where comedian John Bishop grew up), Runcorn in Halton (where comedian John Bishop also grew up), Skelmersdale in West Lancashire, Kirkby in Knowsley. There is nothing unique or sinister here about Liverpool (apart from comedian John Bishop). This was common practice across the country – Indeed, it was central government policy – and resulted in about 160,000 people being ‘removed’ from the Liverpool local authority area.

Many other people also moved to the nearby suburbs of Greater Liverpool to private housing – another trend reflected across the country. It’s worth acknowledging, however, that cities across the world are subject to a level of ‘churn’ in population, whereby many people move out and many people move in, over time, too.

So how did those prominent images of derelict streets in the inner-city part of the City of Liverpool local authority area come about? For that, you have to blame the last Labour government’s over-zealous ‘Housing Market Renewal Initiative’ (HMRI) disaster – and the over enthusiastic participation of the then-Lib Dem controlled city council. On the promise of ‘free’ money from central government, the latter removed hundreds of people from their homes with a view to demolishing the Victorian terraces, and building new replacements. Many of these houses, in truth, were already fully modernised, owner-occupied houses within viable and longstanding communities, as can be seen here in Voelas Street, one of the famous Welsh Streets of Liverpool:

Voelas Street before HMRI implementation. Image: WelshStreets.co.uk.

The same picture after HMRI implementation Image: WelshStreets.co.uk. 

Nonetheless: the council bought the houses and ‘tinned them up’ ready for demolition. Then the coalition Conservative/Lib Dem government, elected in 2010, pulled the plug on the scheme. 

Fast forward to 2017 and many of the condemned houses have been renovated, in a process which is still ongoing. These are over-subscribed when they come to market, suggesting that the idea was never appropriate for Liverpool on that scale. 

At any rate, it turns out that the Liverpool metropolitan population is pretty much the same as it was at its peak in 1931 (depending where the local borough boundaries are arbitrarily drawn). It just begs the question: why are well educated and supposedly clever people misrepresenting the Liverpool metropolis, in particular, in this way so often? Surely they aren’t stupid are they?


And why are some people so determined to always isolate the City of Liverpool from its hinterland, while London is always described in terms of its whole urban area? It just confuses and undermines what would otherwise often be worthwhile comparisons and discussions. Or, to put it another way: “never, ever, compare apples with larger urban zones”.

In a recent Channel 4 documentary, for example, the well-known and respected journalist Michael Burke directly compared the forecast population growths, by 2039, of the City of Liverpool single local authority area against that of the combined 33 local authority areas of Greater London: 42,722 versus 2.187,708. I mean, what bizarre point is such an inappropriate comparison even trying to make? It is like comparing the projected growth of a normal sized-person’s head with the projected growth of the whole of an obese person, over a protracted period.

Having said all that, there is an important sensible conversation to be had as to why the populations of the Greater Liverpool metropolis and others haven’t grown as fast as maybe should have been the case, whilst, in recent times, the Greater London population has been burgeoning. But constantly pitching it as some sort of rare local apocalypse helps no one.

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric’s Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region, mostly monthly, in ‘E-mail from Liverpool City Region’ and he is on twitter @davemail2017.