20 Apr 2010

A Majority of the World’s People Now Live in Cities

The recently published highlights of the World Urbanization Prospects: The 2009 Revision confirms that the world population is now more urban than rural. The level of world urbanization crossed the crucial 50 per cent mark by the middle of 2009, when the number of people living in urban areas (3.42 billion) surpassed those living in rural areas (3.41 billion).


This is one of the key findings from the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), Population Division: World Urbanization Prospects, the 2009 Revision: Highlights, published March 2010.

At the Press Conference to launch this publication, Hania Zlotnik, Director of the Population Division of UNDESA explained that every two years her Division puts out a revision of its forecast of the growth of urban and rural populations. She mentioned some of the key findings in the report and stated that some 50.5 per cent of the population now lived in cities.

Some other highlights include:

● The world’s urban population is expected to increase by 84 per cent by 2050, from 3.4 billion in 2009 to 6.3 billion in 2050.

● By mid-century the world’s urban population will be the same size as the world’s total population was in 2004. Virtually all of the expected world population growth will be concentrated in the urban areas of the less developed regions.

● Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is the most populous urban agglomeration with 36.5 million people in 2009, higher than that of 196 countries or areas. If it were a country, it would rank 35th in population size, surpassing the populations of Algeria, Canada or Uganda.

● Until 1975 there were just three megacities (>10 million inhabitants): New York, Tokyo and Mexico City. Since then, their number has increased markedly with most arising in developing countries. Today, Asia has 11 megacities, Latin America has four, and Africa, Europe and Northern America have two each. By 2025, the number of megacities is expected to reach 29.

● Major parts of the world still remain largely rural - in both Africa and Asia, six out of every ten persons live in rural areas.

This information will be used to update the population of all the major cities on our reference mapping and the key highlights will be used to update the prelim (world urbanization and cities) sections in our forthcoming world atlases.

UNDESA World Urbanization Prospects: The 2009 Revision
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UNDESA World Urbanization Prospects: The 2009 Revision Press Release
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