International Day of Families: Will Megacities Determine the Future of Families?

May 12, 2022

International Day of Families: Will Megacities Determine the Future of Families?

Families and Urbanization is the theme the United Nations has chosen for the 2022 International Day of Families. Why?

By the year 2050, 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas, according to UN estimates. If that forecast proves correct, it will mean a demographic about-face from how people lived a century earlier when the opposite was true. In 1950 about 70% of the total population lived in rural areas and just 30% in urban environments.

Cities are growing fast and the question of whether they can grow sustainably when they are expanding so quickly is crucial from an environmental perspective. But equally important is whether they can be livable for the scores of families who flock to them for economic opportunities.

The UN has been sounding the alarm on the issue of sustainability for some time and in 2015 it established goals for what it will take for the world to build a better future, a collection of 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Family-oriented policies and programs are key to achieving many of the UN’s SDGs. To draw attention to how important the sustainability of cities is to the well-being of the urban families who live in them, the UN has chosen Families and Urbanization as the theme of this year’s International Day of Families, which is acknowledged throughout the world on May 15 each year to draw attention to issues that affect families all over the world.

Unstoppable urban growth

More and more people are pouring into cities, often megacities of 10 million inhabitants or more. Megacities are attractive places to live and work for a lot of people. The concentration of economic opportunity means better jobs and higher per capita income, which in turn generates more demand for workers to provide the services and cultural activities large cities offer.

Cities are growing at breakneck speed and the sheer size of the largest of them poses problems difficult to solve even for urban planners and policymakers in the wealthiest countries. With over 19 million inhabitants, Tokyo’s population is nearing that of countries like Chile while cities like New Delhi and Mexico City have already surpassed the 20 million inhabitant mark.

The challenges of explosive growth: urbanization’s social impact

Most of the growth in urban centers will take place in the developing world where existing cities are already struggling to manage the problems created by rampant growth. What often happens in developing countries is that rural land gets sold off by farmers at the fringe of cities without any thought given to how that land will be connected to services like roads, water, sanitation, and electricity. Transportation is another enormous problem for megacities as is urban waste. By 2050, total waste generation in South Asia will double. In sub-Saharan Africa, it will triple.

Large cities may offer the best prospects for work, but they are at best difficult places to bring up children. Adequate housing, if available, is often unaffordable. Schools and health and social services may be too difficult to get to or simply not available. For the children of poor families living in the world’s megacities, the opportunity to grow up healthy, safe, and with access to education is often out of reach.

Supporting children in North America’s largest city

With more than 20 million inhabitants, Mexico City is the most populous city in North America and its expansion will continue, as will the impact of its urbanization on families. Its population is expected to grow another 10% and its GDP by almost 50% by 2030. More than a quarter of Mexico’s population are children under 14 years of age.

To help drive positive change for children, at Ria Money Transfer we are partnering with the leading non-profit organization dedicated to helping children at risk, Save the Children. Part of our commitment is to sponsor the organization’s “Words that Emerge” project in Mexico City to ensure that 2,050 children under the age of six have access to adequate care and quality education while their parents work. The project takes place through Mexico City’s community centers which provide vital support to families with limited resources.

The quality of life of much of the world’s families depends on how we manage cities. At Ria, we join the United Nations in acknowledging the importance of building more sustainable cities so all the world’s families can thrive.