Global Trends in urbanisation and a growing middle class


Globally, more people live in urban areas than in rural areas, with 54 per cent of the world’s population residing in urban areas in 2015.  In  1950, 30 per cent of the world’s population was urban, and by 2025, 58 per cent of the world’s population is projected to be urban.
 Today, the most urbanised regions include Northern America  (82 per cent living in urban areas in2015), Latin America and the Caribbean  (79 per cent), and Europe (74 per cent). In contrast, Africa and Asia remain mostly rural, with 40 and 48 per cent of their respective populations living in urban areas.  All regions are expected to urbanise further over the coming decades.  Africa and Asia are urbanising faster than the other regions and are projected to become 44 and 53 per cent urban, by 2025.

The urban population of the world has grown rapidly over the past decades to reach 4.0 billion in 2015.  Asia, despite its lower level of urbanisation, is home to 52 per cent of the world’s urban population, followed by Europe (15 per cent) and Latin America and the Caribbean (14 per cent).

Continuing   population   growth   and   urbanisation are projected to add 2.5 billion people to the world’s urban population by 2050, with nearly 90 per cent of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa.

Just three countries —India, China and Nigeria— together are expected to account for almost 40 per cent of the projected growth of the world’s urban population between 2015 and 2050. India is projected to add 404 million urban dwellers, China 292 million and Nigeria 212 million.

Close to half of the world’s urban dwellers reside in relatively small settlements of less than 500,000 inhabitants, while only around one in eight live in the 28 mega-cities with more than 10 million inhabitants. As the world continues to urbanise, sustainable development challenges will be increasingly concentrated in cities, particularly in the lower-middle-income countries where the pace of urbanisation is fastest.  Integrated policies to improve the lives of both urban and rural dwellers are needed.

Urbanisation is partly being driven by the growth in the world’s population, which is forecast to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 and over 11 billion by 2100, up from 1.6 billion in 1900. And, as medicine advances, people will live longer; the world’s population of over-65s alone will increase by over 200 million in the next decade and reach 2 billion by 2050.

Closely linked to the urbanisation trend is the growth of the middle class, which is now the dominant class globally. This middle class is predicted to grow from 1.8 billion in 2009 (26%) to over 4 billion (48%), out of a projected global population of 8.14 billion by 2025. This will have a huge impact on consumption and shopping habits around the world. The above trends with respect to urbanisation and a growing middle class of consumers as well as a forecasted growing disposable income will hugely impact living and shopping behaviour around the globe.

Aad Weening
Director International Consumer Trends

April 2016


Data Sources : United Nations Population Division, Offices of National Statistics, Regional Sources, IORMA Research and Estimates
Latest Update 19th April 2016

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