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News article16 June 20201 min read

JRC provides fundamental data for the OECD-EC ‘Cities in the World Report’

The cover of the Cities in the World – A new perspective on Urbanisation report
Cities in the World – A new perspective on Urbanisation report
© © OECD 2020

On June 16, 2020 the Commissioner Ferreira and OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría launched the joint Cities in the World Report. The report examines the growth of metropolitan areas over the past 40 years using the unique and revolutionary JRC Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL) data and methodology. GHSL has also been at the basis of the definition of cities, rural and urban areas adopted – for the first time ever – by the UN Statistical Commission in March.

In using these global definitions, the Cities in the World report presents a new perspective on urbanisation: it assesses quality of life along the urban-rural continuum; it examines the links between economic development and metropolitan areas; it describes the demographic growth (and decline) of metropolitan areas; it shows how cities are both expanding and densifying and how this affects sustainable development. Finally, the report demonstrates that towns & semi-dense areas have distinct properties, falling between a city and a rural area in dimensions such as economic factors or access to services.

According to the new definition, the world is already much more urbanised than previously thought. While, for 2015, the UN reports that 54% of the global population lived in urban areas, this new definition leads to an estimate of 76.5%, most of them in Asia and Africa. The population living in cities with more than fifty thousand inhabitants has more than doubled over the last 40 years, going from 1.5 billion in 1975 to 3.5 billion in 2015. It is projected to reach 5 billion by 2050.

The Cities in the World Report uses the Degree of Urbanisation that classifies settlements based on population size and density. The methodology was developed for Europe and then adapted to be applied also at a global level with the GHSL data. The GHSL Urban Centre Data Base provided the blueprint for the analysis in the Cities in the World Report.

Further information


Publication date
16 June 2020