Youth Perspectives

Video: Why migrants are a city’s greatest asset

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Jonathan Hursh
Founding Partner, Utopia
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Latin America

“One in six people in the world today lives in a migrant slum. Within a few decades that number will grow to one in three. I think right now the migrant slums in Latin America are doubling every 300 years or so. If we look at Asia where it is a very current issue, they are doubling every 30 to 60 years,” says Jonathan Hursh, executive director and founder of INCLUDED, in this World Economic Forum video.

Migrants, Hursh argues, should be viewed by leaders as an asset which can help their economies grow and provide the diversity that is so important for any city to remain strong.

Click on the video above for the full interview, or read key quotes below.

On the migrant slum phenomenon

They are expecting a better quality of life, when they are hoeing their plot of land in the village where their family has been for hundreds if not thousands of years. They are probably going to look down at their five-year-old daughter and say, this is no life for the twenty-first century. They have TV now, they have radio now, so they can see the possibility of what could be.

When they come into the cities, they suddenly bounce back on the edges and land on these informal migrant slums because they’re an outsider. They are not able to access formal healthcare, formal education, formal housing, formal employment. In essence they are living informal lives on the edges of our cities, and this causes long term issues.

On managing migration

As an example of what can work, in Shanghai, the government said about four or five years ago that they were going to flow all of the informal migrant population of children into the formal education system. It’s a humane issue but I think it’s also a pragmatic issue as well. As cities mayors and city leaders understand that migrants are an asset, they will find ways to flow them to their cities and reward them based on their contributions.

On sharing best practices

It’s a very complex issue, and so I think the way that we can all try to support and help governments who are open – and many of them are – to try and find better ways is to give them examples of what might not have worked in the past, and other examples of what has actually worked in the last four or five years. Latin America, in particular Brazil, has given the world wonderful examples of things that might work. After that, it comes down to very pragmatic solutions, hopefully empirical in nature, but actually at the very beginning, to catch our attention, we all need to be inspired.

Read Jonathan Hursh’s blog post on why migrants are an untapped resource for cities.

Author: Jonathan Hursh is executive director and founder of INCLUDED.

Image: A family of migrant workers carry their belongings towards a bus stop, to wait for a bus that will bring them to a train station, at a migrant workers’ village in Beijing February 12, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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Related topics:
Youth PerspectivesUrban TransformationEconomic Growth
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