Urban population to grow more than ever

The Population Division of UN DESA launched on 5 April the 2011 Revision of the World Urbanization Prospects.  “Urban areas are expected to absorb all future population growth between 2011 and 2050. They will effectively have to cope with the equivalent of the world population of 1950 by the year 2050”, said Mr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development.

While the world population is expected to increase by 2.3 billion, the population living in urban areas is projected to gain 2.6 billion, representing the entire future population growth and even drawing some rural population into urban areas.

“We need to focus on the absolute numbers instead of growth percentages. Why? Because people drink water, not percentages. People need sewage systems. People need housing. It is absolute numbers that count in many aspects” said Mr. Gerhard Heilig, Chief of the Population Estimates and Projections Section. Because of the expected increase in urban population, a lot of new infrastructure will have to be built, just to keep up with the growth rates.

According to the Report, five out of every six new urban residents will be either in Asia or in Africa, where the growth is expected to be the greatest. Special focus should be put on the mega-cities of 10 million inhabitants or more, where evidence shows most rapid growth. While in the 1970s, there were only two such cities; in 1990, there were already ten. Today, there are 23 mega-cities, and in 2025, we expect to have 37. There seems to be a process of urban concentration: cities with more than 1 million inhabitants will increase their share of the urban population, while cities with less than 1 million inhabitants will have a declining share of the urban population of the world.

The significance of the 2011 Revision of the World Urbanization Prospects is largely due to the availability of the new census data. While the previous 2009 revision relied on data from the 2000 census, the 2011 revision relies on information collected from the 2010 census, allowing for more accurate projections.

For more information: http://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/index.htm

webcast: http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/2012/04/press-conference-launch-of-the-world-urbanization-prospects-report-desa.html