Small cities are numerous and many are growing rapidly
Overall, nearly half of the world’s 3.9 billion urban dwellers reside in relatively small settlements with fewer than 500,000 inhabitants, while only around one in eight live in the 28 megacities with 10 million inhabitants or more. Many of the fastest growing cities in the world are relatively small urban settlements.
Rural populations expected to decrease as urban populations continue to grow
The rural population of the world has grown slowly since 1950 and is expected to reach its peak around 2020. The global rural population is now close to 3.4 billion and is expected to decline to 3.2 billion by 2050. While Africa and Asia are urbanizing rapidly, the regions are still home to nearly 90 per cent of the world’s rural population. India has the largest rural population with 857 million, followed by China with 635 million.
Sustainable urbanization is key to successful development
The report notes that a successful urban planning agenda will require that attention be given to urban settlements of all sizes. If well managed, cities offer important opportunities for economic development and for expanding access to basic services, including healthcare and education, for large numbers of people. Providing public transportation, as well as housing, electricity, water and sanitation for a densely settled urban population is typically cheaper and less environmentally damaging than providing a similar level of services to a dispersed rural population.
The 2014 Revision of the World Urbanization Prospects provides new and updated information on global urbanization trends and city growth. Such information is vital for setting policy priorities to promote inclusive, equitable and sustainable development for urban and rural areas alike. Recognizing the importance of smaller cities and towns, this latest revision expands the number of cities and provides, for the first time, population estimates and projections for all of the world’s urban settlements with 300,000 inhabitants or more in 2014.
For more information on the results of the 2014 Revision of the World Urbanization Prospects, visit: