The reverse migration

(Reading time 3 min.)

Across the world, migration flows from country to city. Also, in Mongolia, difficult living conditions in the countryside and the dream of a more comfortable life are driving people to the capital, Ulaanbaatar and the country’s two other cities, Erdenet and Dachan. We know from the work of Children’s Ger, among other things, that it doesn’t always end well. Many of the project’s school children and families in need are newcomers to urban life.

In the first years after the upheaval of the early 1990s, from socialism and a planned economy to capitalism and market economy, there was a paradoxical two-way migration. Masses of people had to travel to Ulaanbaatar in search of work, as local and regional industries could not survive without a socialist planned economy. Collectives (negdels in Mongolian) and state farms were dissolved, and the majority of the agricultural sector was privatized.

Privatization and a return to nomadic life attracted some city dwellers. It is unknown how many took this route. Statistics weren’t quite in control during the chaotic years of the nineties. But we heard many stories, also about colleagues at the State Pedagogical University who wanted to try life on the vast steppes.

Recently, in searching for news on the consequences of the ongoing zuds in Mongolia (see, I came across an interesting article in the excellent English-language online magazine Global Press Journal.

Written by GPJ’s two Mongolian journalists, the article tells of a sort of repeat of the city-to-country migration trend. This time, however, the move out of the city is driven by the fear of toxic air pollution in Ulaanbaatar and the notion of a quieter life without the urban hustle and bustle and daily hours in traffic jams. However, it’s worth noting that it’s not the nomadic life that drives the three young families portrayed in the article. As is well known in Denmark, it’s the creative class who, with access to the internet, can now run a business from home and use their newfound free time to engage with their local community.

Under the headline ‘Why young families are flocking to the countryside,’ the article describes a remarkable trend of young families leaving urban life to settle in the countryside, despite the challenges that come with it, such as a lack of running water and the need to chop firewood.

Tuya Tangad and her family are an example of this trend. After living in Germany and Austria, Tuya returned to Mongolia to contribute to the country’s development and ensure her children could speak Mongolian. The family has now established what the article calls a ranch and a successful business in Moron, the provincial capital of Khvusgul, while Tuya volunteers on a project to build a child development center. (Ranch refers to what in Mongolian is usually called khashaa, a piece of fenced land).

In Tariat, in the Arkhangai province, we find Ulziimunkh Bat-Erdene and his wife, who together decided to leave Ulaanbaatar for a healthier life in the countryside. They now share their experiences online and enjoy a life with less stress and more time for family and hobbies.

Battsetseg Chagdgaa moved to Khantai, Bulgan province, to escape Ulaanbaatar’s pollution and raise her child in a healthier environment. She has started an NGO to support people who want to move from the city to the countryside, working to preserve the environment and promote beekeeping among local farmers and nomads, especially women.

The Mongolian government has introduced several measures to support this reverse migration, including low-interest home loans for first-time buyers, tax incentives and low-interest loans for rural businesses, and online and telephone information for potential migrants.

(The original article mentions in its headline that young families are actually flocking to rural areas. This indicates a significant number of young families leaving the city and moving to the countryside. We have not been able to obtain data to support this claim. This doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it just means we can’t verify. Thus, it could also just be a trend among selected young families).

Read the full article here.

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