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Urbanization: Facts and Figures

Total Population Growth

  • In 2000, world population reached 6.1 billion, and is growing at an annual rate of 1.2 per cent, or 77 million people per year.
  • In 1950, 68% of the world’s population was in developing countries, with 8% in least developed countries.
  • By 2030, it is expected that 85% of the world’s population will be in developing countries, with 15% in LDCs.
  • The other side of the coin is that the percentage of the world’s population that lives in developed countries is declining, from 32% in 1950 to an expected 15% in 2030.
  • By 2050, the number of persons older than 60 years will more than triple, from 606 million today to nearly 2 billion.  The number of persons over 80 years of age will increase even more, from 69 million in 2000 to 379 million in 2050, more than a five-fold increase.

Ubanization: Global Facts and Figures

  • In 1800, only 2% of the world’s population was urbanised
  • In 1950, only 30% of the world population was urban.
  • In 2000, 47%. of the world population was urban
  • More than half of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2008
  • By 2030, it is expected that 60% of the world population will live in urban areas.
  • Almost 180,000 people are added to the urban population each day
  • It is estimated that there are almost a billion poor people in the world, of this over 750 million live in urban areas without adequate shelter and basic services.

Urbanization:  Regional Comparisons

  • The population in urban areas in less developed countries will grow from 1.9 billion in 2000 to 3.9 billion in 2030.
  • But in developed countries, the urban population is expected to increase very slowly, from 0.9 billion in 2000 to 1 billion in 2030.
  • The overall growth rate for the world for that period is 1 per cent, while the growth rate for urban areas is nearly double, or 1.8 percent.  At that rate, the world’s urban population will double in 38 years.
  • Growth will be even more rapid in the urban areas of less developed regions, averaging 2.3 per cent per year, with a doubling time of 30 years.
  • The urbanisation process in developed countries has stabilised with about 75% of the population living in urban areas. By 2030, 84% of the population in developed countries will be living in urban areas.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean were 50% urbanized by 1960 but are now in the region of 75%.
  • Though Africa is predominantly rural, with only 37.3 % living in urban areas in 1999, with a growth rate of 4.87%, Africa is the continent with the fastest rate of urbanisation.
  • In 1999, 36.2% of the Asian population was urbanised and the urban growth rate is in the region of 3.77%
  • The urban population of developing countries is expected to reach 50% in 2020.
  • By 2030, Asia and Africa will both have higher numbers of urban dwellers than any other major area of the world.  

Urban Agglomerations, or More Mega Cities

  • In 1950, there was only one city with a population of over 10 million inhabitants:  New York City.
  • By 2015, it is expected that there will be 23 cities with a population over 10 million.
  • Of the 23 cities expected to reach 10 million plus by 2015, 19 of them will be in developing countries.
  • In 2000 there were 22 cities with a population of between 5 and 10 million; there were 402 cities with a population of 1 to 5 million; and 433 cities in the .5 to 1 million category.


 Additional facts and figures about conditions in human settlements from UNCHS (Habitat)’s the State of the World’s Cities: 2001


  • 75% of the world’s countries have constitutions or national laws that promote the full and progressive realisation of the right to adequate housing.
  • 61% of countries in the world have constitutions or national laws that protect against forced evictions.
  • Households in cities of developing countries need an average of 8 times their annual income to buying a house; in Africa, they need an average of 12.5 times their annual income, while in Latin America, they only need 5.4 times their annual income. The highest rents are in the Arab States, where a household spends an average of 45% of its monthly income on rent.
  • One out of every four countries in the developing world have constitutions or national laws which prevent women from owning land and/or taking mortgages in their own names. Customary or legal constraints to women owning land or property are highest in Africa, the Arab States, Asia and Latin America.
  • Real estate costs are highest in Asia and the Pacific where one square metre of land for a serviced plot costs an average of US$ 3.1.  Africa is at the lowest end of the real estate market with an average price of US$ 0.15 per square metre.
  • Less than 20% of households in Africa are connected to piped water and only 40% have access to water within 200 meters of their house.



  • 5.8% of children in cities of the developing world die before reaching the age of five years.
  • 29% of cities in the developing world have areas considered as inaccessible or dangerous to the police. In Latin America and the Caribbean, this figure is 48 %.
  • In cities of the developing world, one out of every four households lives in poverty. 40% of African urban households and 25% of Latin American urban households are living below the locally defined poverty lines.



  • City dwellers in Africa only use 50 litres of water per person per day.  The highest median price of water is also highest in Africa.
    ? In highly industrialised countries, almost 100% of households are connected to piped water. The average water consumption for these households is 215 litres per person daily.
  • Less than 35% of cities in the developing world have their wastewater treated.
  • In countries with economies in transition, 75% of solid wastes are disposed of in open dumps.
  • 71% of the world’s cities have building codes with anti-cyclone and anti-seismic building standards based on hazard and vulnerability assessment.
  • Buses and minibuses are the most common mode of transport in the world’s cities. Cars are the second most common mode used, while walking is the third most common mode. Travel time in Asian cities appears to be the longest with an average of 42 minutes per trip.


  • 37% of the population in cities of the developing world is employed within the informal sector.
  • 70% of the world’s cities have developed city-to-city international co-operation. 68% of these cities are affiliated to one or more international association of local authorities.
  • 63% of the world’s cities have established new public-private partnerships in the last five years.


  • 49% of the world’s cities have established urban environmental plans.
  • The absolute quantity of local government income varies enormously, with total local government revenue per person in cities of highly industrialised countries being 9 times that of cities in the developing world, 39 times that of African cities and 18 times that of Latin American cities.
  • 60% of the world’s cities involve civil society in a formal participatory process prior to the implementation of major public projects.
  • 70% of cities in the world undertake regular independent auditing of municipal accounts. 78% of the world’s cities publicly announce contracts and tenders for municipal services. 55% of cities have laws that govern disclosure of potential conflict of interest.


For further information, please contact:
Sharad Shankardass, Spokesperson, or
Zahra A. Hassan,
Media & Press Relations Unit,
UNCHS (Habitat),
Tel: (254 2) 623153, 623151,
Fax: (254 2) 624060,







© 2001 UNCHS