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As city after city fell into the grips of often suffocating lockdowns due to the pandemic, The New York Times provocatively asked asked The New York Times How Will Cities Survive The Coronavirus? Read more , How Will (American) Cities Survive the Coronavirus? Then, earlier last month, Singapore reported a drop in its population for the first time in 17 years 17 years Bloomberg Quint Singapore Population Drops for First Time Since 2003 on Economy Read more , as fewer foreigners were now able to work in the city-state.

With India’s largest cities often emerging as nerve centres of the pandemic, must India too brace for an urban exodus? With India’s economy slowing down, the urban jobs engine is no longer humming like a well-tuned machine. To complicate matters, the cost of living in Indian cities remains high and ease of living remains poor.

The evolution of India’s urban landscape will be a bit more complicated. India’s cities will probably not experience the sort of urban evacuation that some of the largest cities globally may see. But that’s not to say that the pandemic will leave no imprint whatsoever on urban India.

What appears likely is this—India’s oldest metros (Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata) will experience an urban flight as the working age population opts to work and live out of younger cities. The younger cities span Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune, and perhaps even Lucknow and Jaipur. India’s young professionals are increasingly gravitating towards this cluster as these cities offer better job prospects, are more pandemic-friendly, and offer a significantly lower cost of living. But can India’s younger cities withstand the often-debilitating effects of the pandemic? Can they hold the people they’re inviting with these job prospects?

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To be clear, the urban desertion that India seems to be experiencing experiencing The Economic Times Covid impact: Professionals who can work from home are ditching the uncongenial cities Read more is not a phenomenon affecting all Indian cities uniformly. Also, this movement of professionals from older metros to the younger ones has not been ‘triggered’ by Covid. The pandemic has simply hastened a trend already underway for some time.

In an earlier story earlier story The Ken Not all’s lost; some jobs could survive post-Covid India Read more for The Ken, this author had highlighted that the four senior metros of India had been struggling to create new jobs even before Covid-19 fears set in.


Ritika Mankar

Ritika Mankar is one of India’s leading economists known best for unearthing macro themes with meaningful investment implications. She was a director with Ambit Capital and now consults with Ambit as a Thematic Specialist. She also serves as a director on the India CFA Society Board.

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