PUBLISHED: 18 October 2022

Emerging Issues: Urban Migration


From 2000 to 2014, the portion of the global population living in urban areas increased from 43 percent to 54 percent [1]. North America is also the world’s most urbanized region, with 82 percent of its population living in urban areas. Rural-to-urban migration has affected rural communities around the world while accelerating the growth and socio-economic development of cities.   

The urban migration challenge is linked to agriculture because it reduces the number of people willing and able to farm the land outside of an urban center. There are many factors that contribute to urban migration but improving the economic viability and support for farmers in developing countries is a key connection to reducing urban migration and mitigating it as a challenge.

Main Causes

Differences between urban and rural income are significant drivers of urban migration. Industries like construction, services, and manufacturing taking place in urban areas generally have faster growth rates than agriculture. These accelerated growth rates have resulted in a larger wage gap. Urban areas then become more attractive places to live in, because of the ability to earn higher incomes. The scarcity of farmland also limits the number of new farmers that can enter the industry. It also places a limit on economic growth potential. Finally, agriculture is very reliant on environmental factors. Climate change and land degradation from agricultural activities can decrease farm productivity. Eventually, this can make rural areas susceptible to poverty and food insecurity. Younger people tend to move to urban areas to avoid these issues, and to help support their families financially. 

Potential Solutions

To encourage people to stay in rural areas and stimulate the agriculture sector, governments can offer improved transportation, education, health services, and improved infrastructure in rural areas. Governments can also facilitate the connection from rural communities to markets, to encourage consumers to shop local while helping farmers sell their products. Financial services like subsidies and public cash transfer programs can also be helpful to ease poverty. 

Agricultural opportunities are on the rise in Canada. In Ontario, there are four jobs available for every one graduate of the Ontario Agricultural College [2]. As agricultural technologies advance and reduce the need for physical labour jobs, the availability of jobs in product development, marketing, and data management, for example, increase. [3] 

Related Organizations and Resources

Local farms like Butterfield Acres host summer camps, field trips, and events to learn about what life is like on a farm. They offer hands-on activities and interactions with real farm animals [4]. Other organizations like Young Agrarians even offer summer jobs for those interested in learning more about working on a farm [5]. 


[1] FAO IFAD IOM WFP. 2018. The Linkages between Migration, Agriculture, Food Security and Rural Development. Rome. 80pp. ( Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO 

[2] Carol Carson. (2018). Growing Opportunities in Agriculture. Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show.  

[3] (2022). Agriculture Tech Jobs Are Growing Canada’s Future. Triton.  

[4] (2022). Home Page. Butterfield Acres. 

[5] (2022). About. Young Agrarians. 

Thank you to our generous sponsors for the Water Connections Project

This phase of the project has been made possible by Nutrien, Enbridge, and Manulife Financial, along with the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.