The Most Urbanized Countries in the World

Hong Kong is 100% urbanized. Editorial credit: ESB Professional /
Hong Kong is 100% urbanized. Editorial credit: ESB Professional /

Since times immemorial, most of the world’s peoples have lived in rural areas. As late as 1950, only around 30 percent of the total world population lived in urban areas. Over the next 50 years, the number had grown by 17% by the dawn of the new millennium. The trend continues still, with the percentage of the world’s population living in urban areas projected to touch the 60% mark by 2025 per current estimates. There was a time when urbanization occurred primarily within developed countries, but today rapid urbanization is increasingly occurring in developing countries as well. There has been a marked positive change in the rate of this happening among selected countries, while in others it has remained more or less the same. Though the trends for urbanization may seem to be a little fuzzy, we will attempt to help you better understand the reasons for it, and whether or not you should be worried about these surges in the populations residing within city limits around the world.

The Most Urbanized Nations

Per United Nations criteria, a place with a population of 20,000 people or more is defined as an urban area. Relative urban population is then expressed as the percentage of total people of a country living within such places. In the case of places such as Vatican City, Gibraltar, Nauru, Bermuda, Hong Kong, and Monaco, this means that 100% urbanization has been achieved. These are all small countries whose inhabited areas are more or less bounded by a single city or handful of cities. Besides these, there are other countries still with relative urban populations just less than 100%. A few examples of such countries include Qatar (99.2), Kuwait (98.2), Belgium (97.9) and Malta (95.4).

Changes in Urbanization Rates

There are two reasons behind high urbanization. First of all, there is natural growth of population in some countries, while the second reason is the rapid migration from nearby rural areas. Natural growth of a population is an indication of the ideal environmental factors which fuel population growth. Either there is a lower birth mortality rate or death rate, which is why the population is increasing. Migration itself can be due to two factors: push factors and pull factors. Political instability is a major push factor, such as in the example of the present European refugee crisis, where Middle Eastern refugees are being "pushed" out of their countries by insecurity within their home nations’ borders, especially in the case of Syria. Other push factors include lack of economic opportunities in rural areas and low availability of requisite resources.

As the name suggests, pull factors attract people from rural areas to the urban areas. Such factors include the ease of attaining a job and quality life in urban areas in relation to many rural areas.

Urban Sprawl and Assessment of Future Impacts

Simple population growth and urban population growth are two different things. Rapid urbanization directly impacts the sociopolitical and economic rubrics of an urban area and its outlying communities by placing a huge burden on authorities and infrastructure to provide even the most basic of amenities. With increasing population in the urban areas, it will be difficult for the authorities to manage the vehicular traffic of an area, because the region has not been designed to accommodate such a huge surge. More frequent floods are common to many growing urban centers. These happen because of the faulty drainage systems and construction of structures in proximity to bodies of water as the open spaces in urban center dwindle. Many urban regions in the world also suffer from poor air quality and smog pollution. Similarly, the runoff from residential, commercial, and industrial activities alike also can cause soil and water in and around urban centers to become polluted to the maximum extent.

Ensuring the Safety of Urban Growth in the Future

In hard times, people will always consider seeking a way out and, for many rural residents, urban areas promise to fulfill this need. In the case of rapid urbanization, there are thousands of people seeking ways out, with the ultimate result not always being a positive one. Governments of certain countries may need to enact laws to protect open spaces, as well as to control crime and facilitate healthy business environments and living conditions where rapid industrialization is occurring.

Most Urbanized Countries

RankCountry Rate of Urbanization
1Vatican City 100
2 Gibraltar100
3 Nauru100
4 Bermuda100
5 Hong Kong100
6 Monaco100
7 Anguilla100
8 Cayman Islands100
9 Macau100
10 Sint Maarten100
11 Singapore100
12 Qatar99
13 Kuwait98
14 Belgium98
15 Malta95
16 U.S. Virgin Islands95
17 Uruguay95
18 Guam95
19 San Marino94
20 Iceland94
21 Puerto Rico94
22 Japan94
23 Turks and Caicos Islands92
24 Israel92
25 Argentina92
26 Netherlands91
27 Saint Pierre and Miquelon90
28 Luxembourg90
29 Chile90
30 Australia89
31 Curaçao89
32 Northern Mariana Islands89
33 Venezuela89
34 Bahrain89
35 Lebanon88
36 Denmark88
37 American Samoa87
38 Gabon87
39 Palau87
40 Greenland86
41 New Zealand86
42 Sweden86
43 Brazil86
44 United Arab Emirates86
45 Andorra85
46 Finland84
47 Jordan84
48 Saudi Arabia83
49 Bahamas83
50 United Kingdom83
51 South Korea83
52 Canada82
53 United States82
54 Western Sahara81
55 Norway81

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