Over 55% of the world currently lives in cities, predicting a 13% increase by 2050. A few countries account for most of the growth as the world urbanizes. Between 2018 and 2050, the United Nations estimated that 35% of urbanization would affect India, China and Nigeria. But what is a city? While definitions may vary, it is agreed that it’s a permanent human settlement. Some cities grow faster than others because of factors like climate, resources, accessibility, etc. Here are the 50 most populous cities in the world. 

1. Tokyo, Japan

City population: 37,274,000

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Tokyo, Japan_Nikken Sekkei

Established as a fishing village called Edo in the 15th century, Tokyo is the intensely crowded capital of Japan, home to over a tenth of the country’s residents. Renamed Tokyo in 1868, the city boasts the largest metropolitan area geographically and is considered one of the world’s wealthiest cities.

2. Delhi, India

City population: 32,065,760

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Delhi, India_Elena Ermakova

The capital of India, Delhi is a city with a historical part and modern, upcoming region. From the monuments and the streets of Chandni Chowk to the crowded shopping malls and the current metro system’s extensive network, Delhi is considered the city with a heart. Officially called the National Capital Territory of India, the capital houses the administrative and political structures. This North Indian metropolis is one of the fastest-growing cities, with its population roughly eight times what it was in 1950.

3. Shanghai, China

City population: 28,516,904

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Shanghai, China_Bernd Thaller

Once known as the “Paris of the East,” Shanghai is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities and a vital financial capital. Migrant employees account for approximately 40% of the residents. Although the birth rate is low, probably due to China’s rigid one-child policy, which was implemented from 1979 to 2016, it also has one of the highest life expectancies in the world. 

4. Dhaka, Bangladesh

City population: 22,478,116

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Dhaka, Bangladesh_Meer Abdul Qadir

According to UN-Habitat, Dhaka is the world’s most densely populated city, with over 115,000 people per square mile. Rural migration is the cause of about 60% of the municipality’s population growth in the 1960s and ’70s. Since then, Dhaka’s population has grown to over 2 million since 2015. 

5. Sao Paulo, Brazil

City population: 22,429,800

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Sao Paulo, Brazil_Raphael Paulino Goncalves

Sao Paulo, the largest city in the Americas, is famous for its ethnic diversity. The city houses the largest Japanese population outside Japan and has more residents of Italian origin than most Italian cities. There is also a large influx of Bolivians migrating for work in the garment factories. 

6. Mexico City, Mexico

City population: 22,085,140

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Mexico City, Mexico_Benjamin Grant

Mexico City is settled by people from the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. It is estimated that approximately 700,000 U.S. citizens reside in the municipality. About 20% of the country’s total population lives in the area, and about 4 million in the slum region of Neza-Chalco-Itza. 

7. Cairo, Egypt

City population: 21,750,020

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Cairo, Egypt_Prin Adulyatham

Cairo is considered an exceptional example of a developing country’s city with a population growth that has outpaced its infrastructure. The growth rate is 2%, mainly due to the city’s low mortality rate— seven deaths per 1,000 annually— and high birth rate of 30 per 1,000. Cairo is Africa’s largest city, slowly followed by Kinshasa and Lagos. 

8. Mumbai, India

City population: 20,961,472

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Mumbai, India_Hardik Joshi

Considered India’s central business hub, the city formerly known as Bombay has increased its population by almost double since 1991. The various employment opportunities Mumbai offers continues to draw in people from all over India. This rapid influx has overpowered city services, generating more than 5,000 metric tons of solid waste daily. Moreover, over 40% of the Greater Mumbai residents are estimated to live in slums.

9. Beijing, China

City population: 21,333,332

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Beijing, China_Liu Xinghua

One of China’s major economic centres, Beijing is China’s capital city and prides itself on an average life expectancy of 81.12 years. Various educational and business prospects draw people to the metropolis. However, while China encourages rural populations to relocate to urban regions, Beijing has announced its intent to put a cap on its permanent population. Due to this, small shops have been torn down, construction land zones have been shrunk, and schools and some government offices have been shifted to other cities. 

10. Osaka, Japan

City population: 19,059,856

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Osaka, Japan_Saigen Jiro

Once the country’s capital, Osaka is the birthplace of Bunraku, a Japanese puppet theatre. Located in the Kansai region of Honshū’s main island, the port city is known for its street bars and modern architecture. The city is also called “The Nation’s Kitchen” since it played a crucial role in Japan’s economy and trade in the 17th century. Such factors have contributed to the migration to the metropolis and increased its population.

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Kaavya Azad is an architecture student passionate about creating sensory harmony and connecting with nature in her designs. Her keen interest in reading, writing and researching led her to venture into Architectural Journalism. You can find her reading books surrounded by her favourite snacks when she isn't working.

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