Where are the world's largest megacities

  • skyscrapers in megacity
Published on 2018-10-30 at 11:50 by Veedushi
When moving abroad, many of us prefer a big-city life for various reasons including economic prosperity, opportunities available, the level of infrastructure, and the presence of amenities. To help you choose wisely according to your long-term plans, here's an insight into the world's largest cities and megacities of the future.

The United Nations defines megacities as cities having more than 10 million inhabitants. In 2017, there were 47 megacities around the world – most of which were in Asia, specifically in China. The benefits of moving to a megacity are many, whether you're looking to study, or for new career and investment prospects, and vibrant social life. For job seekers, megacities represent not only wealth and economic prosperity but also room for innovation, and social and cultural diversity. For investors, megacities are a vast market that's ready to be exploited thanks to demographic growth and consumption. However, moving to a megacity also means having to accept traffic congestion, overcrowding, air pollution, and even income inequality.

Current megacities

Beijing, China

Today, Asia has the world's largest megacities including China with Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Tianjin and Wuhan. India is the second country with the most megacities including Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, and Kolkata. It is worth noting that a couple of megacities like Beijing have about 20 million inhabitants.

London, Paris, Moscow, and Istanbul are also among the largest cities in the world. New York, Los Angeles, Lima, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Buenos Aires are the largest cities in the Americas. While New York State had more than 19.8 million inhabitants in 2016, New York City had nearly 8.55 million people in the same year. Lima, the Peruvian capital city, had 9.7 million inhabitants in 2015. Also, Lagos and Cairo are the largest cities in Africa. Another large city worth mentioning is Tehran, the capital of Iran.

Most of the rest found in Asia-Pacific countries. Manila, Jakarta, Dhaka, Bangkok, Karachi, Ho Chi Minh City, Seoul, Tokyo, and Osaka are not only the largest cities by size but also the most populous cities. You might have realised by now that developing countries are home to most of the world's largest megacities – which is perhaps the reason why they are so attractive for expatriates. These cities can boast of economic growth, market openness, developed infrastructure, and availability of a range of opportunities.

On the other hand, the ageing populations of megacities like Seoul, Beijing and Shanghai are likely to have a significant impact on productivity and, consequently, economic prosperity. It seems like they will have to give way to other fast-growing cities in the coming years.


Broadway, New York City
Studio13lights / Shutterstock.com

The development of megacities depends on a range of factors like GDP growth, productivity, unemployment, service economy, and inflation. In 2017, the economies of New York, New Delhi, Los Angeles, London, Paris, and Rio de Janeiro mainly relied on services. At the same time, Tianjin, Bangalore, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Wuhan recorded the most significant GDP growth rates. It is worth noting that Shenzhen is one of the fast-growing Chinese cities. With a GDP growth of than 72.1% from 2012 to 2017, Shenzhen's economy is now ahead of that of Guangzhou. Famous for its dynamic startup scene, this city focuses on creative and cultural industries, cutting-edge new technologies, finance, and modern logistics.

New York, Los Angeles, Paris, London, and Tokyo stand out for productivity and high disposable income. In contrast, Istanbul, Tehran, Cairo, Lima, and Jakarta currently have high unemployment rates coupled with inflation.

Megacities of the future

Jakarta, Indonesia

According to forecasts, there will be only 39 megacities around the world in 2030 compared to 47 in 2017. Also, these megacities will be home to nearly 9% of the worldwide population in 2030 and will generate 15% of the global GDP. Jakarta, for example, has more than 10 million inhabitants today since they were already more than 9.6 million at the 2010 population census. Indonesia's capital city is expected to become the world's most populous megacities by 2030 with more than 35.6 million.

While Jakarta is dubbed to a concrete jungle due to overpopulation, the development of industry, and road congestion, there are many benefits to moving there. Besides large multinationals offering a wide range of career prospects and the level of its infrastructure and health facilities, Jakarta also has a business-friendly environment that emphasises innovation and creativity. Also, Jakarta shall be the 23rd largest economy in the world by 2030 due to GDP growth.

Bogotá, Chennai, Luanda, Chicago, Dar Es Salaam, and Baghdad also have the potential of turning into megacities by 2030. Most of these are developing markets that are waiting to be exploited in the coming years. While a 60% demographic growth is expected in Luanda, Cairo's population will increase by some 6.3 million people. Cairo will thus become the largest African megacity with at least 29.8 million inhabitants. As a result of urbanisation, many other African cities are also likely to expand and therefore attract more foreign investment in various spheres.

Luanda, Dar es Salaam, Baghdad, and Chennai shall experience the most significant population and GDP growths over the next decade. On the other hand, the sharpest rise in disposable income is expected in Chicago.