Urbanization by the numbers

THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently launched the State of the World’s Children 2012 report that focused on issues concerning children in urban-poor communities. (See related story) The report is replete with statistics that illustrate the situation of today’s children amidst urbanization. Below are some highlights of these figures:

One in two Filipinos live the urban life

Almost one in every two Filipinos or 49 percent of the entire population now live in urban areas. Back in the ‘60s, one in every three Filipinos resided in the city. Forward to 2030, urban population in the country is expected to jump to 77 percent.

Urban Population, Philippines
Source: UNICEF, NSO Census Data, and Human Settlement 2004-Philippines

In Asia, the Philippines is among countries like China, India, and Indonesia with an urban population between 25 and 50 percent of the total population. Globally, over half the world’s people – including more than a billion children — now live in cities and towns. Every year, the world’s urban population increases by about 60 million. By 2050, seven in 10 people are expected to live in cities and towns.

Urban areas safer for babies?

Available data reveal that more deaths among infants and children occur in rural areas than in urban areas. For instance, the infant mortality rate in rural areas is 35 per 1,000 live births compared to 20 in urban areas. Also, child mortality is less likely to occur in urban areas with 8 deaths per 1,000 babies born. In rural areas, child mortality rate is at 12.

In general, children do enjoy greater access to health facilities in cities. But the UNICEF report notes that the paucity of intra-urban data obscures the situation of urban-poor children because statistical averages lump together all city dwellers, including both the rich and poor.

Babies less likely to be breastfed in cities

Children in urban areas are less likely to be breastfed (83 percent) than those in rural areas (92 percent). Also, mothers in urban areas breastfeed their babies at a shorter period of time (seven months) compared to those in rural areas who breastfeed until the average of 17 months. According to a 2006 study by Mary Racelis and Angela Desiree M. Aguirre titled “Making Philippine Cities Child-Friendly: Voices of Children in Poor Communities,” some poor women stop to breastfeed or switch to bottlefeeding because they need to leave the baby occasionally in order to work for added income.

3.7 million families without a home

Official estimates show that 3.7 million houses are needed to close the gap in housing needs in the Philippines. Metro Manila, the country’s largest urbanized area, has a total backlog of nearly half a million.


  • State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World, UNICEF
  • United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)
  • State of Urban Children in the Philippines, Mary Racelis, August 2011
  • Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council
  • 2006 FIES, 2008 NDHS, National Statistics Office