Perhaps somewhat ironically, as we become better connected, and the world becomes a smaller place, our populations are increasingly concentrating themselves in cities and large urban areas. This will further drive technological advancement and impact climate change, having its own influence on other megatrends.
There’s a massive migration to cities underway Globally, more people live in urban than rural areas, and as the graph below shows, that trend looks set to continue. In 1950, 30% of the world’s population lived in urban areas, and that’s forecast to increase to 66% by 2050.
Urban and rural population of the world, 1950-2050
Source: United Nations: World Urbanisation Prospects – the 2014 Revision. Accessed at: https://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/Publications/Files/WUP2014-Highlights.pdf
The rise of the mega city
In 1990 there were only 10 cities in the world with a population exceeding 10 millon, the so called “megacities” Today the number of worldwide megacities has nearly tripled to 28
In the U.S., the patient-to-primary care physician ratio in rural areas is 39.8 physicians per 100,000 people, compared with 53.3 physicians per 100,000 in urban areas. This uneven distribution of physicians has proven to have an impact on the health of the population. With better healthcare outcomes likely, urban populations consequently grow faster than rural populations organically (without migration) as people are motivated to migrate towards them.
At the same time, urban areas tend to have better employment opportunities, education and access to social and cultural activities. This makes them more attractive places to live; it is easier for businesses to flourish. In China, for example, the urban per capita income is more than double the rural figure, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
These large-scale shifts in population lead to both opportunities and challenges for society. The requirements of future urban populations will be remarkably different to the cities of today, with citizens demanding connectivity to everything – every device, every entity and every object. Wireless connectivity will be paramount to improving quality of life in cities.
Here is what else it could mean for urban life:
Mass migration will mean the need for new infrastructure and services. Transport infrastructure and networks will require upgrades due to the dominance of autonomous vehicles and the greater concentration of people.
No car ownership
A lack of space and the rise of autonomous cars will mean fewer people will own a car, preferring to use ‘summon-able’ services instead.
Healthcare systems will have to change
As population density grows to unprecedented levels, existing healthcare systems will need to be radically overhauled to deal with this influx. Traditional hospitals will come under significant strain if they do not utilise new technologies available to them.
Personal security will be a focus
With higher crime rates in cities than rural areas, governments will employ elevated levels of surveillance on citizens in cities, increasing connectivity means that every activity is logged and monitored.
More than half of the world’s population now lives in towns and cities, and by 2030 this number will swell to about 5 billion. Much of this urbanisation will unfold in Africa and Asia, bringing huge social, economic and environmental transformations. Cities will emerge, driven by modern urban populations that embrace technology to improve the efficiency of infrastructure and services.
About the authors: Nicole Vettise, CAIA, Director and Product Strategist, is a member of the Natural Resources team within the Fundamental Active Equity business of BlackRock’s Active Equity Group. She is the lead product strategist for Natural Resources Equities globally, providing a link between the investment team and account managers. Rob Powell, CFA, is the lead strategist for the iShares Thematic Fund range, his role encompasses business development, product strategy and client communications.
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 Hing, E, Hsiao, C. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. State Variability in Supply of Office-based Primary Care Providers: United States 2012. NCHS Data Brief, No. 151, May 2014
 McKinsey Disruptive Technologies Report 2013, Berenburg Agricultural Technology: Harvesting Returns Report, October 2017
 Xinhthuanet, January 18 2018. Accessed at: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-01/18/c_136905784.htm
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