World Economy

WB: Urban Growth to help Benefit the Poor

WB: Urban Growth to help Benefit the PoorWB: Urban Growth to help Benefit the Poor

Almost 200 million people moved to urban areas in East Asia from 2000-2010 – a figure that would be the world’s sixth-largest population for any single country, according to new data released today by the World Bank.

For the first time, the data compares urban areas and their populations in a consistent manner across East Asia, providing governments and local leaders with a better understanding of the shape and scale of the growth so they can get urbanization right – creating opportunities for all, World Bank website reported.

Analyzed in a new report titled “East Asia’s Changing Urban Landscape: Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth,” the data indicates that overall, urban areas in East Asia expanded at an average of 2.4 percent per year during the decade studied, with urban land reaching 134,800 square kilometers in 2010.

Urban populations grew even faster at an annual average rate of 3.0 percent, increasing to 778 million in 2010 – the largest of any region in the world. Other sources indicate that it took more than 50 years for the same number to become urbanized in Europe.

  Direct Link

The report finds a direct link between urbanization and income growth, showing how economic output per capita increased throughout the region as the percentage of people living in urban areas went up.

The report says that there are 869 urban areas with more than 100,000 people in the East Asia region. They include eight megacities of more than 10 million people: the Pearl River Delta, Shanghai and Beijing in China; Tokyo and Osaka in Japan; and Jakarta, Seoul and Manila. China’s Pearl River Delta has overtaken Tokyo to become the largest urban area in the world in both size and population. At the same time, there was significant growth in smaller urban areas. In fact, the 572 smallest urban areas – with populations of 100,000 to 500,000 – as well as the 106 medium-sized urban areas with populations of 1 million to 5 million, have more total land area than the eight megacities.

  Changing Face

As urbanization transforms the face of East Asia, governments and local leaders trying to understand and respond have been hampered by a lack of internationally comparable data because countries use differing definitions of urban areas and populations.

The new data set was created to address this challenge by using satellite imagery and techniques for modeling population distribution, mapping all human settlements to achieve a common understanding of urbanization trends. This approach can systematically establish where urbanization is occurring, how fast it is happening, and how population growth relates to increases in urban land area.

“Once cities are built, their urban form and land-use patterns are locked in for generations,” said Marisela Montoliu Munoz, Director of the World Bank Group Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice. “Improving the quality of data to understand trends in urban expansion is important, so that policy makers can make better-informed decisions to support sustainable communities in a rapidly changing environment, with access to services, jobs and housing.”

Despite such significant and rapid growth, the data reveals that less than one percent of the total area in East Asia is urbanized, and only 36 percent of the total population is urban – suggesting that the region’s urban expansion has only just begun.