The rapid rise in the number of people living in urban areas is shaping how we live now and in the future

The urban population of the world has grown from 751 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018. This is according to statistics from the United Nations, which also reveal that 55% of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, and predicts that this figure will increase to 68% by 2050.

According to stats from @UN the urban population of the world has grown to 4.2 million, with 55% of the world's population currently living in urban areas #globalmegatrends Click To Tweet

The data shows that Asia is home to 54% of the world’s urban population, while Europe and Africa have 13% each. The rural population in the world has grown slowly since 1950, and according to the UN it will reach its peak in a few years’ time. In contrast to the global urban population, the global rural one is now close to 3.4 billion, and is expected to rise a little before it then declines to 3.1 billion by 2050.

While a few cities have experienced population decline between 2000 and 2018, others have boomed. Today Tokyo is the world’s largest city with an agglomeration of 37 million inhabitants. Once a city’s population hits 10 million, the UN then classes it as a megacity, and predicts that by 2030 the world will have 43 megacities.

During the last census in 2011, London’s population was 8.8 million, but now currently sits just under the UN megacity threshold at a little over 9 million. The UN figures estimate that the percentage of UK’s population residing in urban areas is currently at 83.9%. In 2030 this is predicted to reach 86.3%, in 2040 it will rise to 88.2%, and by 2050, 90.2% of our population will be living in urban areas.

During the last census in 2011, London’s population was 8.8 million, but now currently sits just under the @UN megacity threshold at a little over 9 million. #globalmegatrend Click To Tweet

The impact of this is already making itself felt, and the urbanisation megatrend is in turn creating many other trends. The rise in population in Britain’s fastest-growing towns – like Colchester in Essex, which has seen growth of 8.2% between 2013 and 2018 – has led to pressures on infrastructure and meant new housing is struggling to keep up with demand.

With available space becoming limited, houses currently being built in Britain are now more compact. According to LABC Warranty, they began shrinking in the 1980s, and today’s new homes have never been smaller, with the number of bedrooms dropping to below three, and kitchens at their smallest since the 1930s.

With towns and cities offering greater social and economic opportunities than rural areas, the attraction for people – particularly younger ones – to relocate away from friends and family has led to an increase in social isolation. The co-working and co-living trends are both the result of urbanisation, as people find ways to combat loneliness, as well as navigate the issue of rising rents in densely populated areas.

The co-working and co-living trends are both the result of urbanisation, as people find ways to combat loneliness, as well as navigate the issue of rising rents in densely populated areas. #globalmegatrend Click To Tweet

Another trend that we are seeing emerge in the UK as a result of urbanisation is that of demographic divergence. A report from the Resolution Foundation – Ageing Fast and Slow – has found that rural and coastal areas tend to have older populations, while London that draws in younger people, has a typical age of 35.3 years.

While some are predicting that climate change will result in a counter urbanisation trend in the future, if the current demographic divergence continues, the way in which houses are designed may have to differ, depending on their location.

Related Trend Updates: