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Gist of Report on “The World’s Cities in 2018”

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  • Published
    19th Jul, 2019

UPSC Exam is all about proper strategy, dedication and consistent endeavor in the right direction with authentic and reliable study material. Government and renowned international reports form a very important source for grasping the conceptual clarity of contemporary national and international issues/topics. However, it is a daunting task to comprehend a report that runs through hundreds of pages. It becomes difficult for the students in time-crunch situations particularly during UPSC Mains Examinations.

In order to ease the burden over aspirants, GSSCORE has come up with a series of summary of important national and international reports in a crisp and comprehensive manner. Underlining the importance of reports and indexes for PT and Mains, GSSCORE provides a comprehensive summary of important reports of national and international repute. The summary of the report by GSSCORE would save the time and energy of the UPSC aspirants and enable them to quickly cover the syllabus.

  • The following summary of the report titled “The World’s Cities in 2018” by United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division is in one among the series of summaries created by GSSCORE on various reports.
  • The report gives us a brief idea on estimates of population living in rural and urban areas, Top 10 cities of the world based on parameters such as Business Activity, Human Capital, Information Exchange, Cultural Experience, Political Engagement.
  • It defines what a city is along with trends of declining population, Natural disasters faced by the cities.
  • The report underscores the recent developments in achieving these goals. The report provides an insightful overview of the government initiatives and The 10 Principles of New Urban Planning.
  • UN Reports are important topic both for UPSC Preliminary as well as Mains. So going through the GSSCORE summary of the report becomes imperative for UPSC aspirants.
  • In 2018, an estimated 55.3 percent of the world’s population lived in urban settlements. By 2030, urban areas are projected to house 60 percent of people globally and one in every three people will live in cities with at least half a million inhabitants.
  • Understanding the key trends in urbanization likely to unfold over the coming years is crucial to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including Sustainable Development Goal 11, to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.


Top Ten Cities of World

  1. New York
  2. London
  3. Paris
  4. Tokyo
  5. Hong Kong
  6. Los Angeles
  7. Singapore
  8. Chicago
  9. Beijing
  10. Brussels


(Parameters: Business Activity, Human Capital, Information Exchange, Cultural Experience, Political Engagement)

  • Most people can agree that cities are places where large numbers of people live and work; they are hubs of government, commerce and transportation. But how best to define the geographical limits of a city is a matter of some debate.So far, no standardized international criteria exist for determining the boundaries of a city and often multiple boundary definitions are available for any given city.
  • One type of definition, sometimes referred to as the “city proper”, describes a city according to an administrative boundary.
  • A second approach, termed the “urban agglomeration”, considers the extent of the contiguous urban area, or built-up area, to delineate the city’s boundaries.

A third concept of the city, the “metropolitan area”, defines its boundaries according to the degree of economic and social interconnectedness of nearby areas, identified by interlinked commerce or commuting patterns, for example.

The world’s cities are growing in both size and number:

  • At the turn of the century in 2000, there were 371 cities with 1 million inhabitants or more worldwide. By 2018, the number of cities with at least 1 million inhabitants had grown to 548 and in 2030, a projected 706 cities will have at least 1 million residents.
  • Cities with more than 10 million inhabitants are often termed “megacities”. Globally, the number of megacities is projected to rise from 33 in 2018 to 43 in 2030.
  • In 2018, 48 cities had populations between 5 and 10 million. By 2030, 10 of these are projected to become megacities. Projections indicate that 28 additional cities will cross the 5 million mark between 2018 and 2030, of which 13 are located in Asia and 10 in Africa. In 2030, 66 cities are projected to have between 5 and 10 million inhabitants.
  • An overwhelming majority of the world’s cities have fewer than 5 million inhabitants. In 2018, there were 467 cities with between 1 and 5 million inhabitants and an additional 598 cities with between 500,000 and 1 million inhabitants. By 2030, the number of cities with 1 to 5 million inhabitants is projected to grow to 597. A further 710 cities are expected to have between 500,000 and 1 million inhabitants in 2030.

One in five people worldwide lives in a city with more than 1 million inhabitants:


  • In 2018, 1.7 billion people—23 percent of the world’s population— lived in a city with at least 1 million inhabitants. In 2030, a projected 28 percent of people worldwide will be concentrated in cities with at least 1 million inhabitants.
  • Between 2018 and 2030, the urban population is projected to increase in all size classes, while the rural population is projected to decline slightly. Rural areas were home to 45 per cent of the world’s population in 2018, a proportion that is expected to fall to 40 per cent by 2030.
  • A minority of people reside in megacities—529 million, representing 6.9 per cent of the world’s population in 2018. Yet, as these cities increase in both size and number, they will become home to a growing share of the population. In 2030, a projected 752 million people will live in cities with at least 10 million inhabitants, representing 8.8 per cent of the global population.


Delhi will overtake Tokyo as the world’s largest city by 2030:

  • Between 2018 and 2030, the population of Delhi, India is projected to increase by more than 10 million inhabitants, whereas that of Tokyo, Japan is projected to decline by almost 900,000. The two cities are thus expected to change places on the list of the world’s cities ranked by size.
  • Delhi will be at the top followed by Tokyo. Currently, Tokyo is the most populated city of the world followed by Delhi.
  • Projections indicate that the world’s tenth largest city in 2018—Osaka, Japan—will no longer be among the ten largest in 2030. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo will grow to rank as the tenth most populous city in the world in 2030 .

Most megacities are located in the global South:

  • Of the world’s 33 megacities—that is, cities with 10 million inhabitants or more—in 2018, 27 are located in the less developed regions or the “global South”. China alone was home to 6 megacities in 2018, while India had 5. Nine of the 10 cities projected to become megacities between 2018 and 2030 are located in developing countries.

The share of the population residing in cities is increasing in all regions

  • In Northern America, more than half of the population resided in cities with 500,000 inhabitants or more in 2018 and one in five people lived in a city of 5 million inhabitants or more. Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the largest proportion of the population concentrated in megacities: of the total population of the region in 2018, 14.2 percent resided in the six cities with 10 million inhabitants or more.
  • In both Africa and Asia, over half of the population lived in rural areas in 2018, a share that is declining in both regions. Between 2018 and 2030, the number of cities with 500,000 inhabitants or more is expected to grow by 57 per cent in Africa and by 23 per cent in Asia.

Most of the world’s fastest growing cities are in Asia and Africa:

  • Between 2000 and 2018, the populations of the world’s cities with 500,000 inhabitants or more grew at an average annual rate of 2.4 per cent. However, 36 of these cities grew more than twice as fast, with average growth in excess of 6 percent per year. Of these, 7 are located in Africa, 28 in Asia (17 in China alone) and 1 in Northern America.

Fifty-two cities have experienced population decline since 2000

  • In some cities, population decline occurred in response to a natural disaster. This has been the case, for example, in New Orleans, United States, which lost population after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and in Sendai, Japan, following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
  • Economic contraction has also contributed to population decline in some places. For example, Buffalo and Detroit, both located in the United States, experienced population decline associated with the loss of industry and jobs.
  • In most cases, however, declining or stagnating populations have been associated with persistent low fertility rates, particularly in Europe. The 52 cities with declining populations were home to 59 million people in 2018, down from more than 62 million in 2000.

Most cities are vulnerable to at least one type of natural disaster:

  • Of the 1,146 cities with at least 500,000 inhabitants in 2018, 679 (59 per cent) were at high risk of exposure to at least one of six types of natural disaster:
  1. Cyclones
  2. Floods
  3. Droughts
  4. Earthquakes
  5. Landslides
  6. Volcanic eruptions
  • Taken together, cities of 500,000 inhabitants or more facing high risk of exposure to at least one type of natural disaster were home to 1.4 billion people in 2018.
  • One hundred and eighty-nine cities—most located along coastlines—were at high risk of exposure to two or more types of natural disaster; 26 cities—including megacities Manila, Osaka and Tokyo—faced a high risk of exposure to three or more types of disaster.
  • Since A.T. Kearney began tracking the performance of the world’s top cities a decade ago, China’s urban centers have rapidly become relatively more competitive on a global scale. The number of Chinese cities included in the Global Cities Index has spiked from 7 in 2008 to 27 this year.
  • The scores of the original seven Chinese cities included in the first Global Cities Index have grown at a higher annual rate—1.8 percent—than every region except Africa. In comparison, the scores of North American cities increased by 0.6 percent annually over the past decade

What is China doing right, and what can we learn?

  1. This evolution of China’s cities reflects intentional efforts by national, regional, and local entities to improve the country’s competitiveness.
  2. The initiatives have focused on business, governmental, and cultural activities, providing improvements that boost the quality of life for residents, increase the ease of doing business, and attract more investment and attention from global companies.
  3. The improvement of Chinese cities can be attributed to a myriad of factors encompassing business, technology, human capital, and more.
  4. One key component is the increasing ability of Chinese mega-cities to attract multinational companies. For example, Google has offices in Shanghai and Beijing and plans to open one in Shenzhen, which is currently home to Chinese tech giant Tencent. The arrival of these corporations has been beneficial in attracting foreign direct investment into the country as well. In fact, China has remained among the top five countries for FDI intentions for 20 years according to the A.T. Kearney FDI Confidence Index.
  5. The Chinese government’s exceptionally restrictive Internet regulations primarily impact global players and have resulted in China developing its own tech industry with a home court advantage. As a result, the aforementioned Tencent, as well as e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba and search engine Baidu, have been able to flourish.
  6. The country has bolstered its workforce with efforts aimed at educating its own citizens and attracting outside talent.
  7. Public and private funds are flowing into the start-up ecosystems in these top-tier cities, making entrepreneurship a new and viable career path while teeing up the next generation of Chinese business success stories.

Takeaway for other cities

  • The takeaway for other cities is that these changes aren’t made in a vacuum. Instead, the evolution of these places provides a playbook for how business, government, and social policy can work together at a national, regional, and local level to accelerate growth.

So how can other global cities or countries emulate these Chinese municipalities, perhaps with fewer financial or governmental resources?

  1. The first step is to empower municipalities. This seems to be key for spurring multiple efforts. The Chinese cities noted in our report have all benefited from local economic development efforts that were supported and complemented by regional and national initiatives. In an example from Shenzhen, the mayor initiated a project to transition all the city’s buses to electric. The federal government then offered the city a subsidy that made purchasing the new buses possible.
  2. The second key lesson is to take a holistic approach. The Chinese cities that are primed to thrive have addressed numerous aspects that make living and working there appealing, from protecting outdoor spaces to supporting education pathways that provide for promising careers.
  3. A comprehensive strategy to urban development is paying off for China. By focusing on the multiple aspects that make cities great, the country is creating urban hubs that will continue to draw business, talent, and culture from inside—and outside—the country.


  • The widespread growth of slums or informal urban settlements— particularly in the developing world— became a central policy issue during the last two decades. Images of slums were ubiquitous, as the favelas of Brazil and the huge, unserviced settlements of Nairobi caught the world’s imagination.
  • But as an issue, and a challenge to urban managers, the problem was not by any means new, so we can consider it a persistent issue in the classification of this chapter.
  • Slums represent part of the unfinished business of the MDGs or part of the “old” urban agenda that must be addressed by the new urban agenda. This is why Target 11.1 of Goal 11 of the sustainable development agenda seeks to ensure by 2030, access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums.
  • In a major study of this phenomenon, The Challenge of Slums, UN-Habitat estimated that in 2001, 924 million people, or 31.6 per cent of the total urban population in the world, lived in slums.
  • The report noted that”… the immensity of the challenge posed by slums is clear and daunting. Without serious and concerted action on the part of municipal authorities, national governments, civil society actors and the international community, the numbers of slum dwellers are likely to increase in most developing countries.”

Source: World Cities Report 2016, UN Habitat

Cities are growing everywhere, but as they grow and their problems become more complex, they learn from each other, and from their local communities. In so many areas—urban services, urban housing, growing inequality and exclusion, and safety and security— new challenges are emerging, even when old patterns persist. Cities will always be “rife with problems,” even when they are “filled with promise.” To effectively address these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities of urbanization requires a coherent approach. This approach in the form of a new urban agenda offers a unique opportunity to achieve global strategic goals by harnessing the transformative forces of urbanization:

  1. The new urban agenda should recognize that urbanization as a force on its own, which, alongside other drivers of sustainable development can be harnessed and steered through policy, planning and design, regulatory instruments as well as other interventions to contribute towards national sustainable development. Moreover, the challenges posed by urbanization have global ramifications that, if not addressed adequately, could jeopardize chances of achieving sustainable development. It is therefore necessary to shift cities and towns onto a sustainable development path.
  2. The new urban agenda should promote sustainable cities and other human settlements that are environmentally sustainable and resilient; socially inclusive, safe and violence-free; economically productive; and better connected to and contributing towards sustained rural transformation. Such a vision should be fully in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially Goal 11: to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
  3. This new urban agenda should be implementable, universal, rights-based, sectorally and spatially integrative, inclusive, equitable, people-centred, green and measurable.
  4. The new urban agenda should have the possibility of articulating different scales, from the neighbourhood to the global level, and diverse scales of human settlements— from the village through the small and mediumsized town, to the city and megacity.
  5. For the new urban agenda to induce transformative change in cities and countries both developed and developing, it needs to give explicit attention to both the pillars that can guide this change and the levers to support the development of a new model of urbanization.
  6. The new urban agenda can shape our emerging futures, bringing about the sustainable type of development that is essential for national sustainable development, as its expected outcomes extend well beyond urban areas through a range of ripple effects across socioeconomic and environmental spaces.

Source: World Cities Report 2016, UN Habitat

  1. It is for urban areas to remedy their own negative effects on the natural environment through development and implementation of adequate solutions.
  2. With proper planning and management, cities can retain substantial components of native biodiversity.
  3. Quantifying the value of ecosystems and/ or attaching qualitative values enables mainstreaming of ecological factors into city management.
  4. Proper planning and resources can result in mutual benefits for human and environmental healthiness.
  5. Urban green spaces can contribute to climate-change mitigation.
  6. Existing food systems and associated ecosystems can be maintained if their degree of biodiversity is increased, improving global food security in the process.
  7. Urban and environmental planning provides opportunities and formal legal mechanisms for biodiversity conservation through design guidelines, building codes, zoning schemes, spatial plans and strategic choices, all coupled with effective enforcement.
  8. Cities have an essential role to play in environmental governance focusing on both the urban landscape and the remote ecosystems that are affected by urbanisation.
  9. Cities test our capacity to live together and to create environments that are socially just, ecologically sustainable, economically productive, politically participatory and culturally vibrant.
  10. Fostering creativity, innovation and learning is essential if the global challenge of preserving biodiversity in the face of unprecedented urbanization is to be met.

Source: Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2012

  1. Promote sustainable development
  2. Achieve integrated planning
  3. Integrate plans with budgets
  4. Plan with partners and stakeholders
  5. Meet the subsidiarity principle
  6. Promote market responsiveness
  7. Ensure access to land
  8. Develop appropriate planning tools
  9. Be pro-poor and inclusive
  10. Recognize cultural diversity

Source: World Cities Report 2016, UN Habitat

  • As dynamic sites of exchange between stocks and flows, cities must increase revenues to finance public expenditures to put in place building, operating, and maintenance of services such as infrastructure, environmental services, health, education, and security, while also producing public goods such as clean air, unpolluted water, and public space.
  • The challenge of strengthened municipal finance lies in the conundrum which urban dynamism is up against these days – and more than ever in the face of urbanization: cities must provide the stocks of durable assets (decent housing, infrastructure, public buildings, together with serviced trading, factory and storage sites, public buildings) needed to accommodate and support over time the never-ending flows of abilities and skills (from physical strength to toplevel research) brought about by “urbanization” – with the constant interplay among these resulting in urban prosperity for all. Those stocks— fixed, durable assets expected to last for 50 to 80 years— are best funded through long-term financing instruments. Higher incidence of climate change effects and extreme weather events has highlighted the importance of these municipal finance issues.
  • At the same time, coastal cities in both developed and developing countries face the prospect of flooding and sea-level rise. Urban areas in low-lying Bangladesh are already feeling the effects of flooding on low-income communities. One local study in Dhaka revealed the increased importance of “safe storage” in these homes, leading to a re-design of houses to meet these new needs. This widespread and shared issue is likely to become a critical priority for all coastal cities over the next 50 years, suggesting that any mitigation strategy must include saving resources for these purposes. In 2012, the Government of the Netherlands approved a 100-year plan for annual savings in order to be able to face disasters in a not so distant future.
  • Rapidly-growing cities and towns in developing countries face another set of problems, including ever-higher demand for water and the need to go farther and deeper to find quality, abundant resources, which together contribute ever-higher marginal costs. The financing of water supply is therefore an urgent need in most developing countries.
  • Similarly, the financing of sanitation is a critical priority, yet the short-term cost of water-borne sewerage systems seems prohibitive for most countries.
  • The financing of ICT is also a key priority for cities to increase connectivity that can enhance human wellbeing and prosperity.

Innovative municipal finance solutions, such as value-capture, can improve the prospects of developing necessary infrastructure in specific urban areas, reducing spatial inequalities.

Source: World Cities Report 2016, UN Habitat

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