Urbanization is the process of change from a rural society in which people live scattered across the landscape to an urban society where people are concentrated in thickly populated nodes.

The two areas that will be used to show how urbanization effects two contrasting regions, are Hong Kong and Birmingham.

Hong Kong has developed from a small fishing community, into a thriving port, it was Hong Kong’s status as a colonial port that has allowed it to develop and industrialize and prosper despite the lack of any significant resources, Hong Kong’s Location is it’s resource.

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The West midlands, Birmingham which at its industrial height became known as the Black Country. This industrialized because it had the cheap labour and was ideally situated, near the necessary raw materials with good transport links. Allowing it to become an industrial center.

Urbanization is caused by a growth in population, this is often initially due to rural to urban migration. This pattern of migration can be due to a number of factors. The population in the rural areas may have increased passed the natural carrying capacity of the land, forcing people to move in order to avoid starvation. Rising agricultural productivity, growth in farm size, mechanization or falling wages also encourage or result in rural to urban migration. Migration to the city does not occur on the same scale if it is not industrialized or is not in the process of industrializing. Industrialization gives the urban settlements the means to support an increasing population and provides the incentive of regular wages which to encourage migration.

Birmingham is in the West Midlands where industrialization was based on mining and steel based industries, however industrialization in Birmingham itself centered on industries which required a high level of skill and only limited resources, such as the gun, button and brass trades. In modern times Birmingham is still a light industrial centre, it is involved in manufacturing secondary goods such as cars, engines and other mechanical products. These industries are often highly mechanized and workers are unskilled or semi-skilled. The finished produces are high in value while the resources used to make them are relatively low. Cadbury and Schweppes are based in Birmingham.

Hong Kong is now one of the world busiest containers ports handling in 1993 9 million units. It is also the worlds busiest in terms of vessel arrives, the port remains essential to Hong Kong’s economy and prosperity handling 90% of the territories trade, and including port related industries it creates 15 % of Hong Kong’s GDP. Hong Kong’s airport ranks as the forth busiest in terms of international traffic and third for freight. It has been said about Hong Kong that its people are its resource. To an extent this is true, most people are involved in tertiary industries many people in Hong Kong are very highly skilled, and it is this level of professionalism that encourages companies to continue to set up their bases here. Hong Kong remains a key trading and financial centre in Asia.

In response to the demand for cheap (affordable) housing, the now familiar terrist housing was constructed, providing housing for the masses. These houses were located near the places of work, as they had no means of transport other than walking. Large estates of semi detached housing were built during the 1920’s-30’s these lacked amenities and services such as doctors clinics. In some privately owned estates, where building and development was restricted such as Calthorope family estate. This area is now mainly residential with trees and parks.

As Birmingham spread outwards former separate villages such as. Erdinton, Stechford and Harborne, were swallowed by new urban growth. Industrial districts developed further away from the city centre, because the cost of land was cheaper here and they needed more space, to expand. Causing growth in the suburbs. Large council estates built in the 1920’s, furthered the urban sprawl. 1920-1930 a was a time of massive house building, by both private and council developers.

Hong Kong developed in a similar way in terms of housing, first shanty towns developed, then the council build large blocks of flats, in response to the demand for cheap accommodation. Most housing is now is either privately developed or provided by the council. Birimham sprawled much more than Hong Kong, which grew much higher as the land was not made available in the same way. In order to house Hong Kong growing population large towns were created to provide housing (government created). The government made sure the services and transport to these towns were good e.g. Tseung Kwan O near junk bay and Sha Tin.

In Hong Kong the rural area has experienced a decline in the population, and many of the old traditional villages have been abandoned or are in decline. Farming no longer takes place on a subsistence level. A form of market gardening exists, in a few limited areas where flowers are grown for the local market. Because of the lack of room for expansion and the high demand on the land, the urban area has developed an impressive skyline of skyscrapers. Location and sovereignty of the colony has made it a target destination for exiles both before the 2nd wold war and after.

People who migrated to HK were poor having lost everything they may have owned in China. The limited accommodation available was too expensive for the migrants resulting in the build up of shantytowns. After the First World War industry took hold. Hong Kong’s location (port) and cheap workforce, making further development possible.

Industry has declined in Hong Kong but Hong Kong was bale to adapt by moving to more tertiary or service based industry. Industries are often based in HK while their factories have moved to mainland.

Development in the habour has been restricted due to the limited amount of flat land. As building on steep hillsides is difficult and hazardous, especially on Hong Kong Island. Land has had to be repeatedly reclaimed from the sea for use by industry, housing and transport.

West Midlands primarily involved in heavy industry such as iron and steel making which are heavily dependent on raw materials. This area had only a limited involvement in lighter industries and the tertiary sector. 1804 1882 the black country changed from primary activities to secondary activities, a marked decrease in open coal mines while foundries and iron works increased. The Black Country was ideally situated to become an industrial centre because of raw materials located nearby. Access to a good transport network (railway) large pool of unskilled labour willing to work for low wages (recently displaced from the rural areas).

The falling demand due to over seas competition, old outdated technology still in use, and depleted resource base caused the cost of operating foundries and iron/steel works to become uneconomical this inevitably lead to the decline in the smokestack industries. Resulting in the labour force being displaced causing high employment, creating the threat of services and active population moving to more prosperous areas.

Both Hong Kong and Birmingham developed into larger settlements because of trade, and then continued to grow in response to the demand to specialize in commerce and industry.

Urbanization occurred fastest along the roads in Birmingham, as so much of the land was owned by priverate land owners, Birmingham and other towns and cities in the black country experienced a more organic urban sprawl. Hong Kong, where the roads ran along the water front as it was too step else where.

Commerce only really came with the New Territories because of the new supply of available land, and the influx of people from China; which occurred in 1950 because of the Cultural Revolution. Government control of land has limited urban sprawl. The land has been sold in small packages limiting the areas available to urbanize. Businesses that once operated in Hong Kong have moved into the mainland because of cheaper labour but have maintained their headquaters in Hong Kong which has revered primarily of commerce as there is no longer cheap labour.


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