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By 2050, 68% of World Population Will Live in Urban Areas — 2018 World Urbanization Prospects

Published on May 16th, 2018 • United Nations

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) will present the latest urban population estimates and projections: “2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects”.

Mr. John Wilmoth, Director, Population Division, UN DESA and Mr. Fran├žois Pelletier, Chief, Population Estimates and Projections Section, Population Division, UN DESA.

According to a new United Nations data set launched today, (16 May) 55 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68 percent by 2050.

At the launch of the 2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects produced by the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), its Director, John Wilmoth, said “the coming decades are expected to bring a continued gradual increase in the percentage of the world’s population that resides in cities and urban areas.”

The shift towards urban living, he said, “has been happening in all regions of the world, it is one of the four demographic megatrends that are reshaping human society and the world. The others being population growth, population ageing, and international migration.”

Projections show that urbanization, the gradual shift in residence of the human population from rural to urban areas, combined with the overall growth of the world’s population could add another 2.5 billion people to urban areas by 2050, with close to 90 percent of this increase taking place in Asia and Africa.

The report notes that future increases in the size of the world’s urban population are expected to be highly concentrated in just a few countries. Together, India, China and Nigeria will account for 35% of the projected growth of the world’s urban population between 2018 and 2050. By 2050, it is projected that India will have added 416 million urban dwellers, China 255 million and Nigeria 189 million.

Wilmoth said “the growth of the world’s urban population will continue to be driven by two factors, one is the overall growth of the world’s population, which is projected to continue in the coming decades. The other is the continuing shift in place of residence from rural to urban areas. Both factors, overall growth and the shift towards urban residence will drive the urbanization and the urban growth that is projected for the future. It is projected that around 2. 5 billion people will be added to the world’s urban population by 2015.”

The urban population of the world has grown rapidly from 751 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018. Asia, despite its relatively lower level of urbanization, is home to 54 percent of the world’s urban population, followed by Europe and Africa with 13 percent each.

Wilmoth said, “when cities are growing the need for essential infrastructure and services increases as well. When urban growth is rapid, ensuring access to housing, water, sanitation, electricity, public transport, education, and health care for all is especially challenging. For densely settled urban populations, however, infrastructure and services can often be provided in a more economical, and less environmentally damaging way compared to providing similar support to a dispersed rural population.”

Today, the most urbanized regions include Northern America (with 82 percent of its population living in urban areas in 2018), Latin America and the Caribbean (81percent), Europe (74percent) and Oceania (68 percent). The level of urbanization in Asia is now approximating 50 percent. In contrast, Africa remains mostly rural, with 43 percent of its population living in urban areas

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