One billion people more in urban areas since 2000

Tokyo remains the largest city in the world


The rapid pace of urbanization

A billion more people were added to urban areas within a span of 14 years. Global urban population increased from 2.86 billion in 2000 to 3.88 billion in 2014. This (1.02 billion) represents a 36% rise in urban population, globally, in just 14 years. The recently released 2014 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects shows that urban population as a proportion of total population has risen from 47% in 2000 to 54% in 2014. More than 90% of this growth has come from less developed countries. This trend is likely to continue over the next few decades. During the same time period, rural population has increased by less than 3% from 3.27 billion in 2000 to 3.36 billion in 2014.

Tokyo is the largest city

Tokyo is the world’s largest city (in population size) with an agglomeration of 38 million people. The next few largest cities are from the emerging economies of India (Delhi, Mumbai), China (Shanghai), Brazil (São Paolo), and Mexico (Mexico City). It is projected that Tokyo will remain the largest city till, at least, 2030 with 37 million people, while Delhi’s population is projected to increase from 25 million in 2014 to 36 million by 2030.

The most urbanized country is Belgium (98%) followed by Japan (93%) and Argentina (92%). At the other end, the least urbanized countries with less than 20% of national populations living in urban areas include Burundi, Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, South Sudan, and Uganda in Africa; and Nepal and Sri Lanka in Asia.

Implications for health

This unprecedented speed of urbanization will have a strong impact on population health. With more than 90% of global growth in urban populations taking place in less developed countries, a number of cities are having to deal with intense population pressure on limited resources. As WHO Kobe Centre has reiterated over the years, the magnitude of health problems and health inequities in cities of less developed countries are likely to be a major concern. Vulnerable populations in cities are disproportionately more likely to be exposed to the ill effects of rapid unplanned urbanization (Link to Hidden Cities) such as air pollution and violence. It is, therefore, an imperative for global and local stakeholders to work together to minimize the negative impacts of urbanization on health.