The Chinese government has just released data indicating that the country's urban population is now in the majority. The story comes from the New York Times:
The statistics bureau stated that China counted 690.79 million urbanites at the year’s end, an increase of 21 million, compared to 656.56 million rural-dwellers, down 14.56 million.
The shift furnishes a ready labor force for the factories that power China’s export-based economy, and better wages in cities have contributed to raising hundreds of millions from poverty.
But it also has fueled an urban underclass of migrants and jobless without proper housing and social services, and the hollowing of the countryside has left the elderly without family close by and deprived farms of needed labor.
In the United States, the view we most often have of China is of large cities and factory workers making all of those things that we buy. But, as you can see from these numbers, there is still a genuinely large "hidden" population. Here in Ghana, where I am at the moment, the population also passed the urban majority mark last year, although there was not any particular global fanfare over that accomplishment. Still, Ghana is not that far behind the giants of China and India when it comes to economic indices. World Bank data show that 54% of Ghana's population lives below $2/day, compared to 36% in China and 76% in India (the figure is zero for the US, by comparison). Those data also show that the average Ghanaian makes $1,190 per year, compared to $1,180 in India and $3,650 in China (the US is at $46,360). So, despite all of the press that China gets, Ghana is not that far behind, and despite all the press that India gets, Ghana is ahead.