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The United Nation’s ‘World Urbanisation Prospects (2018)’ lists the following global trends:

  • Globally, more people live in urban areas than in rural areas, with 55% of the world’s population residing in urban areas in 2018. In 1950, 30%  of the world’s population was urban, and by 2050, 68% of the world’s population is projected to be urban.
  • Today, the most urbanised regions include Northern America (with 82% of its population living in urban areas), Latin America and the Caribbean (81%), Europe (74%), and Oceania (68%). The level of urbanisation in Asia is now approximating 50%. In contrast, Africa remains mostly rural, with 43% of its population living in urban areas.
  • The rural population of the world has grown slowly since 1950, and is expected to reach its peak in a few years. The global rural population is now close to 3.4 billion, and is expected to rise slightly, and then decline to 3.1 billion in 2050. Africa and Asia are home to nearly 90% of the world’s rural population. India has the largest rural population (893 million), followed by China (578 million).
  • The urban population of the world has grown rapidly since 1950, having increased from 751 million to 4.2 billion in 2018. Asia, despite being less urbanised than most other regions today, is home to 54% of the world’s urban population, followed by Europe and Africa (13% each).
  • Growth in the urban population is driven by overall population increase, and by the upward shift in the percentage living in urban areas. Together, these two factors are projected to add 2.5 billion to the world’s urban population by 2050, with almost 90% of this growth happening in Asia and Africa.
  • Just three countries — India, China, and Nigeria — together are expected to account for 35% of the growth in the world’s urban population between 2018 and 2050. India is projected to add 416 million urban dwellers, China 225 million, and Nigeria 189 million.
  • Close to half of the world’s urban dwellers reside in settlements with fewer than 500,000 inhabitants, while around one in eight live in 33 megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants. By 2030, the world is projected to have 43 megacities, most of them in the developing regions.
  • Tokyo is the world’s largest city with an agglomeration of 37 million inhabitants, followed by Delhi with 29 million, Shanghai with 26 million, and Mexico City and Sao Paulo with around 22 million inhabitants each. Today, Cairo, Mumbai, Beijing, and Dhaka all have close to 20 million inhabitants.
  • Ironically, some cities have experienced population decline in recent years. Most of these are located in the low-fertility countries of Asia and Europe where overall population sizes are stagnant or declining. Economic contraction and natural disasters have contributed to population losses in some cities as well.
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