Urban means relating to town or city. So, concept of urbanisation is related to increase in the population in urban areas. World population has reached 7.7 billion as of November 2018. About 55% of world population live in urban areas and it is projected to increase to 68% till 2050. Developing countries like Oman, Rwanda, Qatar, Niger, Mali etc show highest growth rate in urban population.

NOTE – The first urban settlement to reach a population of 1 million was the city of London.

Criteria for classification of Urban Settlements

The exact definition of urban area can’t be given as it varies from one country to another. Majority of the countries adopt size of population administrative setup and occupational structure as the criteria to define an urban area.

Population Size

Different countries has put different lower limits of the size of the population to define an area as urban. Also, other factors like density, number of non-agricultural people living in an area etc are taken into consideration. Countries with low density of population usually choose a lower number as the lower limit in comparison to densely populated countries. For instance, Denmark, Finland and Sweden considers a place urban if it has around 250 persons living in that area.In Iceland, minimum population of a city is 300, whereas in Canada, it is 1,000.

Country Population Size
Colombia 1,500
U.S.A 2,500
India 5,000
Japan 30,000

Occupational structure

The occupation of the people living in an area is also considered a major factor in deciding whether it is a city or a village. Of course, the criterias set may be different for different countries. For instance, if more than 50 percent of the economically productive population is engaged in non-agricultural pursuits, then it is considered as Urban area in Italy whereas for India, it is 75 percent.


The presence of any administrative setup like municipality, court, cantonment board etc in any region is also considered as the criteria to be designated that place as urban. In Brazil, any administrative setup is considered urban irrespective of its population.


Location of urban centre is decided with the reference to their function. For instance, the location requirements of a holiday resort are different from that of an industrial city, a military area or a seaport. Urban centres are strategized according to the resources that are available in that region. A mining town requires the presence of valuable minerals; industrial towns need the availability of electricity power stations and raw materials; tourist centres need to be near some beautiful place or something that attracts people.

Types of Urban Settlements

On the basis of the size and services that are available in a region and the functions rendered, urban centres are known as town, city, conurbation, megalopolis, million city.


These are closely related to villages. Specific functions like manufacturing retail and wholesale trade, and other professional services are present in towns.


In the words of Lewis Mumford, “the city is in fact the physical form of the highest and most complex type of associative life”. Cities are much bigger than towns and have number of economic functions. They have major transport terminals, banking institutions, and regional administrative offices.


Term coined by – Patrick Geddes (1915).

Conurbation is merger of major originally separate towns or cities. Greater London, Chicago, Tokyo and Manchester are few examples.

Million city

The city with population of a million or more. London reached the million mark in 1800, followed by Paris in 1850, New York in !860 and by 1950 there were 80 such cities.


Greek word which means “great city.” This is the union of conurbations. Example – The urban area stretching from Boston in the north to south of Washington in U.S.A.

The term is also sometimes known as Megacities. The population of mega cities is more than 10 million. The number of megacities in world is 31. Tokyo is the largest megacity in the world with 38 million people living in it.

Note – New York was the first city to reach the mark of a mega city in 1950 with total population of 12.5 million.

What Causes Urbanisation?

Natural Increase

Natural increase is quite literally the most natural form of urbanisation. It occurs because the birth rate in a lot of urban areas is higher than the death rate. This means that the population is growing.


There are a few different things that cause urbanisation, but rural-urban migration is probably the most common. People move from rural areas to urban areas.

Usually, the rate at which this occurs can differ and is affected by the following:

1. Push Factors

Push factors are factors that push someone away from the area that they currently live in. For example, if someone lives in a rural area that is war torn, then they might be forced to flee their home. Other examples of push factors include:

  • Unemployment
  • Poor living conditions
  • Political turmoil
  • Unpleasant Climate
  • Natural disasters and epidemics
  • Socio-economic backwardness

2. Pull Factors

Pull factors are factors that pull someone to a new area. For example, if people believe that they might have a better quality of life in an urban area, then they are going to be more likely to move. Other examples of pull factors include:

  • Better job opportunities
  • Better living standard
  • Peace and Stability
  • Security of life and property
  • Pleasant Climate

Problems of Urban Settlements

Migration to cities on one hand provide employment to people but on the other hand it poses many problems. Cities in developing countries are mostly unplanned and migration only leads to congestion. With rise in population there is shortage of resources and place to live.

Economic problems

The less employment opportunities in rural areas push the population to urban areas which lead to generation of a massive part of unskilled and semi-skilled labour force which only puts more pressure on the already saturated urban population.

Socio-cultural problems

Cities in developing countries do not have sufficient infrastructural, education and health facilities to cater the needs of ever growing population. This situation only aggravates the crimes and social ills in the country. Also, when only a selective gender migrates (mostly males) it leads to distortion of sex ratios in the cities.

Environmental Problems

A large population with limited resources also put pressure on environment. The over use of water resources leads to shortage of water and an improper sewage systems create unhealthy condition.

Urbanisation in the UK

The urban growth rate of the Uk is about 0.88 which way less than the developing countries. This is because UK is a developed region and the rate people migrating in search of better places is less. Also, the rate of urbanisation is not equal in all the countries and regions. According to the statistics, 83.07 percent of the total population in the United Kingdom lived in cities in 2017. It has increased from 80.48 percent in 2007.