Types of City

Types of city

Megacities, world cities and millionaire cities

The urbanisation of the world’s population was one of the major geographic, demographic, economic and social changes of the 20th century, and it is continuing or even accelerating in some areas in the 21s century.
Populations of major towns and cities:

  • Over 30 million people – Tokyo – actually 37million people
  • 5 cities between 20 and 30 million – New York, Mexico City, Seoul, Mumbai, Sao Paulo
  • 21 cities with 10-20 million
  • 41 cities with 5-10 million
  • 31 cities with 4-5 million
  • 38 cities with 3-4 million
  • 81 cities with 2-3 million
  • 360 cities with 1-2 million
  • 380 cities with 0.5-1 million

Up until the middle of the 20th century, the biggest cities in the world were in the most developed countries. New York and London were, on most measures, the world’s two biggest cities, with Paris, Berlin, Rome, Tokyo, Chicago and Los Angeles also near the top of the list.
In the 1950s, New York or the New York region, was recognised as becoming the world’s first megacity. London and some of the big cities in developed countries might also have qualified for such a description. However, since 1950 many cities in developing countries, propelled by high rates of natural increase and very high rates of rural-to-urban migration have joined them. In 1960, 9 of the world’s biggest cities were located in developing countries; by 2008, 48 out of the 68 cities with a population over 5 million were in developing cities.

This change can be explained through the following:

  • Globalisation has led to a shift of manufacturing from its traditional centres n the developed world – cities such as Manchester and Detroit – to lower wage economies in China, India etc.
  • As manufacturing spread out, services concentrated into a relatively few trading centres
  • Below these big trading cites there are 20 smaller cities known as ‘sub-global’ – these are financial services (banking, services), headquarters of production companies, seats of major governments. They also have specialised business services such as law and accountancy. These services are clustered together and in turn there are then the development of good transport, communication, personal services and entertainment-cultural sectors.

World cities are resource centres

Cities grow because they are resource bases. Companies need access to knowledge in order to grow, and in cities they find access to temporary or semi-permanent networks of knowledge, When the right combinations of knowledge resources is available at the right time, innovation and entrepreneurship flourish. There are two kinds of knowledge: codified knowledge: which is carried and spread by technology such as the internet and so is available to anyone anywhere in the world and tacit knowledge: whose development depends on discussion and face-to-face contact.

World cities are learning centres

If companies can learn, the enter cycles of growth and development. To allow this, they must be part of networks of learning that consist of clusters of universities and other education institutions, policymakers, company research bases, and so on. World cities maybe seen as ‘learning regions’, ‘smart cities’, science cities’ or ‘creative hubs’.

World cities are centres of spatial hierarchy

Tacit knowledge is particularly likely to exist, develop and grow in certain areas of cities, such as Central Business Districts (CBD), university campuses, science parks. Such places are cradles of innovation. Meetings and contacts take place on a regular basis, providing – sometimes by design and sometimes by chance – the spark for the new ideas. This is far more likely to occur in an area with a high concentration of people and activities where there are many opportunities for interaction and knowledge sharing.

To sum up…

World cities can be characterised in three ways:

  1. They have shed a lot of their routine, low-value activities – manufacturing, distribution, routine services – to other cities or countries
  2. They have high levels of synergy in their economic structures
  3. They offer a wide range of jobs but there is a tendency toward a polarised labour force. At the top end are jobs that demand a high level of education, training and personal skills – and high rewards. To support these jobs here is a wide rang of semi-casual and low-paid work with few career prospects. This can lead to an increasing spatial differentiation in the distribution of types of residential area in the cities.