Urbanisation is defined as the "increasing proportion of people living in built environments such as towns and cities".
The word proportion in this definition is very important, because it indicates that we must judge urbanisation by looking at both the numbers of people living in both rural AND urban areas. For the first time ever in the history of mankind it is now estimated that more people now live in towns and cities than in rural areas.
Low income country (LIC) and high income country (HIC) - This subdivision of countries is based on the World Bank income classifications (GNI per capita), which in 2013 were Low Income $1,045 or below, and High Income $12,746 or above.
Newly emerging economies (NEEs) - Countries that have begun to experience high rates of economic development, usually with rapid industrialisation. They differ from LICs in that they no longer rely primarily on agriculture, have made gains in infrastructure and industrial growth, and are experiencing increasing incomes and high levels of investment. E.g. Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa (the so-called BRICS countries).
Urbanisation - The process by which an increasing percentage of a country's population comes to live in towns and cities. Rapid urbanisation is a feature of many LICs and NEEs.
World Urbanisation rates in 2011 according to the UN.
PATTERNS in urbanisation
1. HICs were the first to urbanise, and generally have the largest proportion of their population living in towns and cities.
2. LICs currently have lower amounts of urbanisation, but are urbanising rapidly. Megacities, cities with over 10 million people, are almost exclusively in poorer nations.
3. Cities of World importance for commerce and trade are dominantly in HICs, regardless of size. World cities include Tokyo, London and New York.
4. Many old colonies (e.g. in South America) have high percentages of urbanisation as the colonising countries such as France and the UK favoured city growth to help administration
5. Asia has the highest number of Megacities
The graph (copyright coolgeography.co.uk) shows the differences in urbanisation for various regions. Despite Asia’s lower percentage of urbanisation it has a far greater number of people living in towns and cities than any other world region. The map below backs up these patterns