World

East Asia's Changing Urban Landscape: Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth

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 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.

East Asia’s Changing Urban Landscape

Analysed 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 kilometres 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.

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.

A notable feature of this expansion is that urban areas are also getting denser on average, which if well managed, can be good for the environment and can lead to more efficient provision of services to people. However, this growth poses a significant challenge due to metropolitan fragmentation, with almost 350 urban areas spilling over local administrative boundaries. In some cases, multiple cities are merging into a single entity while they continue to be administered separately.

Key Findings

  • 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.
  • Most of East Asia's population is still non-urban, meaning the region will likely face decades of further urbanization.
  • The Pearl River Delta in China – which includes the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan and Dongguan – has overtaken Tokyo as the world's largest urban area in both size and population, with more inhabitants than countries such as Argentina, Australia or Canada.
  • China's government-implemented urbanization dominates East Asia with 600 of the region's 869 urban areas located in the country, which also has more than two-thirds of East Asia's total urban land.
  • East Asia's urban areas included eight "megacities" with populations over 10 million, 123 large cities with one to 10 million people, and 738 medium and small cities with 100,000 to one million people.
  • The report establishes 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.
  • Expanding urban areas often cross administrative or political boundaries such as municipal borders, which fragments government management and revenue sources.
  • The rate at which urban areas expanded physically varied widely between countries. Mostly rural countries had the highest spatial expansion rates, with Lao PDR at 7.3 percent and Cambodia at 4.3 percent, while industrialized Japan had the lowest rate of increase at 0.4 percent despite containing the second-largest amount of urban land behind China.

Title: East Asia's Changing Urban Landscape: Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth

Published by: World Bank

Date: January 2015

Available from: World Bank website at <http://www.worldbank.org/eap/measuringurbanexpansion> or directly from this link (PDF: 19.60 MB)

Note from Urbanalyst: The above summary is sourced directly from the document and/or accompanying documentation. Aside from minor editorial modifications, the information is presented as-is.

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

Newsletter Subscription - Banner

Urbanalyst Banner