Of Megacities and Developing Countries: Changes in Family Patterns

As part of our series in response to the UN’s 2016 World Cities Report, we’re exploring the opportunities and challenges presented by the rapid growth of developing countries.

In our first post, we explored the challenge of affordable housing in large urban areas with poor infrastructure. In this post, we’ll explore the anticipated changes to the traditional “nuclear” family structure, which typically includes father, mother and children.

Of course, this structure has evolved and changed across the world, not just in megacities or developing countries, but everywhere. Plenty of research over the last few decades has shown a drop in marriages and couples having children, as well as a rise in single parents. Regardless of the part of the world you’re in, this is a social change that inevitably affects the culture of a city.

What does this mean in terms of business opportunities? For one the traditional structure, whereby family members provide childcare and palliative care, no longer applies in these markets. Families have dispersed more widely, leading to a surge in the need for hired nannies and caretakers.

The U.S. has seen an uptick in mobile apps and services that make it easy to find and hire a professional caretaker with just a swipe. The same need that drove this innovation in the U.S. also exists in emerging markets–but the need has yet to be fulfilled. This is a great opportunity with tremendous potential. But first, emerging markets require stronger credit structures and easier mechanisms for performing background checks.

In part three of this series, we’ll further discuss the need for improved government services in developing urban areas.


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