No pot of gold in cities, say analysts to villagers

Social analyst Prof Dr Mohammad Shatar Sabran says rapid urbanisation and modernisation have narrowed the income gap between urban and rural areas in Malaysia.

KUALA LUMPUR: The perception among rural communities that they can only seek a better life financially if they migrated to cities needs to be changed, so as to prevent them from falling into the ‘urban poverty’ trap, says a social analyst.

Prof Dr Mohammad Shatar Sabran said rural folk should instead be more creative in finding and creating job opportunities in their own areas.

He said rapid urbanisation and modernisation had narrowed the income gap between urban and rural areas in Malaysia.

Someone travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Melaka “may not even notice that we have passed through the rural areas because the physical environment is similar,” he said.

Mohammad Shatar said, however, the potential for job creation and development in rural areas would only be realised if a large number of the workforce in the area remained there, and industries were attracted to operate in the rural areas.

“The reason industries remain in the urban areas is that the labour force is there, the labour force is coming to them (industries). If the labour force does not come, how will they find the employees?

“So then they (the industries) will think that when they come out to the rural areas, they will have the workers, with pay rates that are appropriate. Workers also would not have to deal with traffic jams and enjoy lower home rental rates,” he said.

Economic analyst Barjoyai Bardai said most of those who emigrated from rural to urban areas would find it difficult to find a comfortable place to live in. The cost was too high and the quality of life would also deteriorate “as they may have to live in squatter areas; they would have been better off living in the countryside”.

The job opportunities in the cities may not be as worthwhile as thought to be.

“For example, in Malaysia, we have set a minimum wage of RM1,100 and some workers receive only this amount, while the cost of living of RM2,500 (for a household comprising a married couple and children) in the city is much higher than in the village.

“Although they have a permanent job and some are in the public sector, their income is still below the minimum living requirements, and this makes them relatively poorer,” he said.