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2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects

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2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects

  • In 2018, 55% of the world's population lives in urban areas; in 1950, only 30% of the world's population lived in urban areas; by 2050, the urban population is projected to reach 68%.

  • The most urbanized regions today are North America (82% urbanized in 2018), Latin America and the Caribbean (81%), Europe (74%), and Oceania (68%). Asia's urbanization rate is now approaching 50%, while Africa, which still has a large rural population, is only 43% urbanized.

  • The world's rural population, which has been growing slowly since 1950 and now stands at 3.4 billion, is expected to peak in a few years and reach about 3.1 billion by 2050. Africa and Asia are home to 90% of the world's rural population. India is the largest (893 million), followed by China (578 million).
  • The world's urban population grew rapidly from 751 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018. Today, Asia has 54% of the world's urbanized population, although it is relatively less urbanized than the rest of the world (Europe and Africa are next at 13% each).

  • Growth in the urbanized population is projected to come from both net population growth and rural-urban migration, with the urban population expected to increase by 2.5 billion by 2050, with nearly 90% of this growth occurring in Asia and Africa.

  • India, China and Nigeria alone are projected to account for 35% of global urban population growth between 2018 and 2050. The projected urban population increases are 416 million in India, 255 million in China, and 189 million in Nigeria.

  • Nearly half of the world's urban population lives in cities with less than 500,000 inhabitants, while one in eight people live in 33 megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants. By 2030, the world is expected to have 43 megacities, most of them in developing regions.

  • Today, the Tokyo metropolitan area is the world's largest city with 37 million people, followed by Delhi (29 million), Shanghai (26 million), Mexico City and Sao Paulo (22 million each). The populations of Cairo, Mumbai, Beijing, and Dhaka are already in the 20 million range.

  • On the other hand, some cities are experiencing population decline in countries with low fertility rates and stagnant populations, such as in Asia and Europe.

Sustainable urbanization is the key to development

  • In the context of global urbanization trends, sustainable development depends on responding adequately to urban expansion in low-income and lower-middle-income countries, where urbanization is projected to be most rapid by 2050. Improving the livelihoods of both rural and urban populations requires balanced policies that strengthen urban-rural, economic, social and environmental linkages.


For more detailed information, please refer to the original data ( or to the original report at 

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017). World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP/248.


Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Research Strategy Office)

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