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Growth of World Cities

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  • Published
    19th Jul, 2019

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.

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