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Two-Thirds of World’s Population Will Live in Cities by 2050

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By 2050, two-thirds of the world's population is expected to live in urban areas – an increase from the current 55 percent, reported U.S. News and World Report (US).

A report published from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects, predicts 68 percent, 2.5 billion more people, could live in urban areas by 2050. Nearly 90 percent of this increase will take place in Asia and Africa, according to the report.

Thirty-five percent of the projected urban population growth between 2018 and 2050 will occur in India, China and Nigeria. The report predicts India will have an additional 416 million people in urban areas. China will have 255 million and Nigeria will have 189 million.

Currently, North America is the most urbanized region, with 82 percent of its population living in urban areas in 2018. It is followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (81 percent), Europe (74 percent) and Oceania (68 percent). Although Asia and Africa are expected to become highly urbanized over the next three decades, they currently have many people residing in rural areas.

About half of Asia's population lives in rural areas and about 57 percent of Africa's population lives in rural areas. The U.N. report stresses that it is "crucial" to understand "the key trends in urbanization likely to unfold over the coming years."

"Integrated policies to improve the lives of both urban and rural dwellers are needed, while strengthening the linkages between urban and rural areas, building on their existing economic, social and environmental ties," the report states.

In addition to an increase in urbanization, there will also be a rise in megacities. Today, there are 33 megacities throughout the world – Tokyo is the largest with a population of 37 million. One in eight people live in a megacity, but nearly half of the world's population lives in smaller areas, with a population of less than 500,000 people, according to the report.

By 2030, however, the number of megacities is expected to increase to 43, each with more than 10 million inhabitants. Many of them will be in developing regions, but some of the fastest-growing will be cities currently with a population of less than one million. Most will be in Asia and Africa.

City Perks, Suburb Life
"As the world continues to urbanize, sustainable development depends increasingly on the successful management of urban growth, especially in low-income and lower-middle-income countries where the pace of urbanization is projected to be the fastest," the report says. "Many countries will face challenges in meeting the needs of their growing urban populations, including for housing, transportation, energy systems and other infrastructure, as well as for employment and basic services such as education and health care."

The report states that as urbanization quickly increases, the benefits that come along with it need to be "fully shared and inclusive." The strategies for managing urbanization must "ensure access to infrastructure and social services for all, focusing on the needs of the urban poor and other vulnerable groups for housing, education, health care, decent work and a safe environment."

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