The Living World
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Urbanisation in HICs: Opportunities and Challenges

High Income Countries are among the most urbanised countries in the world with high average incomes. These countries typically experienced significant industrialisation during the 19th and early 20th centuries, leading to a lot of rural-to-urban migration.

In HICs, urbanisation tends to fall within stages 3 to 5 of the urbanisation pathway. At these stages, the rate of urbanisation is slowing down and, in some cases, a shift towards counter-urbanisation.

Urban Changes in HICs

Urban change in HICs often involves an influx of international migration seeking better opportunities than those available in their home countries. Workers from LICs or NEEs see HICs as an opportunity for wealth that doesn’t exist in their country of origin. These countries are often Low Income Countries (LICs) or Newly Emerging Economies (NEEs).

Migrants are attracted to HICs for higher standards of public services, cultural activities, consumerism and wages. However, they also face challenges like high rent prices, inequality, and sometimes hostile living conditions.

Opportunities and challenges from urban change

Urban Change brings opportunities to cities and towns, the benefits of which can spread to rural populations as well. However, it also comes with challenges that can be costly and create social disruption.

The impacts of these changes vary by city, but we can observe certain broad patterns.


Greater ethnic diversity due to the introduction of migrants from across the world. This brings new cuisine and culture to the HIC.Poverty and inequality will increase.
More restaurants, culture centres and leisure facilities are built in urbanised areas, which improves the quality of life.Social housing will be needed for unemployed/poorer civilians.
Crime rises with larger, urbanised populations and inequality.
There is a risk of ethnic segregation, which causes areas to become inhabited by one race more than another.


Cultural events boost tourism, creating opportunities for spending. An example of this is Chinese New Year in London.Energy supplies and public services are put under pressure, requiring greater investment.
A rise in hi-tech jobs due to urban development and innovation.Traffic worsens and public transport usage increases.
At urban centres, shopping centres, bars and restaurants increase spending, fuelling the local economy.Managing food supplies can become challenging.
As urban environments expand or build, new jobs in construction, tourism and customer service provide income for the workers who then spend the money at local businesses.


Development of public transport systems such as trains, buses, trams, ‘park n ride’ and ferries to reduce car pollution and congestion.Increased pollution and waste management issues.
Creation of parks for leisure and ‘greening’ areas to reduce pollution.The need for sustainable systems rises, which often requires expensive systems to be overhauled.
Repurposing industrial areas into cycle and pedestrian routes.Urban development often leads to habitat destruction. Green spaces must be protected from developers and pollution.

Key Terms

HICs (High Income Countries)Countries with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of $12,535 or more
Rural-to-Urban MigrationMovement from rural areas to urbanised areas
Urban changeAny change within the urban environment associated with growth or decline
Ethnic diversityThe presence of a variety of cultural, racial and ethnic groups within an area

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