Click here to download your Knowledge Organiser.

Population and Urbanisation

  • Population around the World
  • Population Structure
  • Population Control
  • Migration
  • Urbanisation in Mumbai
  • Urban Planning

How are populations changing?


Population is the number of inhabitants of a particular place. As the world continues to develop, people are living longer and more babies are born. It is important for Governments to understand their population so that they can continue to develop and improve the quality of life of the people. If a country becomes overpopulated then it will be hard for a country to develop as the size of the population exceeds the country's resources such as food, water and energy.


The current world population is 7.6 billion (check it here). The United Nations predict that world population will reach 9.8 billion in 2050. It is expected that more than half of the world's population growth between now and 2050 will take place in Africa. The population of Europe is expected to decline.


Countries that will see significant population growth include India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda and the USA.

Where does everyone live?


Population distribution refers to the pattern of where people live and how populations are spread out. Population is not evenly spread across the world. Areas with large populations that are crowded are densely populated. Areas with small populations that are spread out are sparsely populated. 


Reasons for densely populated areas include: better access to services (education and healthcare) and resources (soils, water, energy and food), more employment opportunities, good communication and infrastructure. 


Reasons for sparsely populated areas include: difficult landscapes such as mountains or deserts, risk of floods and harsh climates. You can see this using the two maps below, for example, the north of Brazil is sparsely populated because whilst the tropical rainforest has many values, the trees are very crowded and the soils are not good for farming. 


Historically, settlements have built up where there has been good access to natural resources (soils and water to grow food) as well as job opportunities. As a settlement continues to develop, industries emerge and connections with other settlements via roads, railways and rivers are made. This creates more job opportunities and settlements grow with an increasing population. Areas that are sparsely populated tend to have fewer natural resources or are harder to live in due to the mountains and hills.


Greenland has a population of around 56,000 people (Manchester has a larger population). Greenland is the most sparsely populated country.


Monaco has a population of around 37,000 people and is the most densely populated country with around 25,718 people per square kilometre (one square kilometre is around the size of Manchester Golf Club). Monaco is less than one square kilometre in size, which explains why it is the world's most densely populated country with such a small population.


World Population Density Map

World Biome Map

How can we describe the structure of a population?


A person that studies population date is known as a demographer. They study birth rate (number of births per every 1000) and death rate (the number of deaths per every 1000) and the difference between birth rate and death rate. 


As a country develops economically, demographers identified a pattern that a country's population growth goes through five stages of change. This is represented by the Demographic Transition Model (DTM).


Natural increase happens when birth rate exceeds the death rate. This occurs in developing countries.


Natural decrease happens when death rate exceeds the birth rate. This occurs in stage five of the DTM. Many developed countries like those in stages four and five are experiencing a population decline as less babies are born due to the status of women and more people are living over the age of 65 due to good healthcare and reliable food supply.


We can also breakdown the population structure of a place using a population pyramid. It shows age and gender distribution. Governments use population pyramids to predict the services (schools, hospitals and houses) they will need to provide in the future.

Can we control population growth?


When a country is underpopulated it doesn't have enough people to use its resources and technology and this could slow down economic development. When a country is overpopulated it has too many people and not enough resources and this could lead to an increase in poverty which will slow down economic development. 


Russia is an underpopulated country. Women have careers and marry at a later age meaning fewer babies. Russia also has a high death rate as a result of heart disease, violence, accidents and suicides. This underpopulation will slow down the economic development of Russia and so the government offer incentives to encourage more women to have babies. In 2007, the government started to give $11,000 US dollars to mothers of more than one child. The money can be used towards buying a house, the child's education or the mother's pension. There has been a slight increase in population as a result with official figures showing the population has increased by 1.9 million by 2015. In 2013, Russia's birth rate exceeded the death rate for the first time.


In 1970 China's population was growing too quickly. China was becoming overpopulated and this was holding China back. To reduce the birth rate, China introduced a one-child policy in 1979. This meant that families could only have one child. Families were given free healthcare and education for this child. Families that had more than one child could be fined, receive no benefits for the second child and could even go to prison. This policy had many problems. There was an increase in forced abortions and millions of forced sterilizations (surgery on a women to stop future pregnancies). There was also voluntary abortions when mothers discovered their unborn baby was a girl, this was so they could have a boy to continue the family name. This has caused a gender imbalance in China with more men than women. 


Chinese officials state that the policy has reduced the population by 400 million and this was necessary to prevent poverty and allow China to develop into the country it is today. 


The policy was ended in 2016. This means families can now have more than one child and face no consequence. 

Why do people migrate?


Migrants are people who move from one place to another to live temporarily or permanently in another location. This can be internal migration where people move within a country, for example from Cardiff to Liverpool or externally between countries, for example from Portugal to Brazil. This person would be known as an emigrant to Portugal because they have left that place but they would be known as an immigrant to Brazil because they have moved to this place.


Migration can be voluntary or forced. A voluntary migrant makes a choice to move whereas a forced migrant moves because it is unsafe to remain where they are. Forced migrants are known as refugees. 


People migrate due to push and pull factors. Push factors are reasons why a person leaves a place and pull factors are reasons why a person moves to a place.


Push factors may include:

  • Limited access to services (schools, hospitals and homes).
  • Limited access to resources (soils, water, food and energy).
  • Limited job opportunities.
  • Poor transport links.
  • Natural hazards (earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, flooding)
  • War.
  • Persecution. 

Pull factors may include:

  • Better access to services (schools, hospitals and homes).
  • Better access to resources (soils, water, food and energy).
  • Better job opportunities.
  • Better transport links.
  • Family and Friends.
  • Improved living conditions.
  • Better entertainment facilities (cinemas, nightlife, parks).

Where do people migrate to?


In 2017, there were 258 million international migrants worldwide. This means that 258 million people live in countries different to their country of birth. 


People migrate due to the push and pull factors listed above. Looking at these, it is easy to understand why people migrate and looking at the table below it is easy to establish that many migrants move to developed countries. 

The majority of international migrants move to the USA. 25.5% of international migrants to the USA emigrate from Mexico, including many entering the country illegally. It is very dangerous to cross the Mexican-USA border illegally and many are deported back to Mexico when caught by US border patrols. 

Mexico has high crime rates, problems with drugs and corruption as well as poor education and few job opportunities.


The picture to the left shows Enrique Canchola disguise himself as a car seat to cross the border in 2001.


Many Mexicans who work in USA work as cleaners, farmhands and housekeepers. These are jobs that are low paid and many American's do not want to do.

What is urbanisation?


Urbanisation is the increasing amount of people that live in towns and cities (urban areas). Urbanisation is caused by natural increase (birth rate) and migration. Migration does not just happen between countries but also within countries such as rural-to-urban migration.


There is huge inequality between rural areas and urban areas, this causes rural-to-urban migration. People migrate from the countryside to the towns and cities, attracted to the promise of a better life as a result of pull factors. This causes cities to grow. In developed countries such as the UK and USA this occurred during the industrial revolution and so the rate (speed) of urbanisation in North America and Europe is slower than the rate of urbanisation in Asia and Africa.


Mumbai is a densely populated city on the western coast of India. Mumbai is India's largest city and has a population of 21.3 million in 2016. Mumbai experiences rural-to-urban migration daily, with many people migrating from Punjab and Haryana to Mumbai. 

How did urbanisation change Mumbai?


Mumbai is India's richest city. 


Urbanisation in Mumbai is caused by migrants coming from all over India to work in various jobs such as aerospace, engineering and medical research. The average migrant to Mumbai is 20 years old and birth rate exceeds the death rate, causing natural increase.

Rapid urbanisation has created many social and economic opportunities in Mumbai. 

  • The need for homes for the increasing population has created many opportunities for economic development as jobs are created in construction.
  • Industrial Development could potentially create 3 million jobs.
  • Income in Mumbai is higher than surrounding rural areas.
  • Mumbai's literacy rate is 90%, compared to 71% in rural areas.
  • Access to clean safe water and electricity.

What is life like in the slums?


Mumbai population increases by 1,500 people per day. This causes huge challenges. Limited housing and high rent costs mean that over 9 million people live in the slums, with Mumbai's biggest slum, Dharavi accommodating over 1 million people. A slum is an example of a squatter settlement. Squatter settlements occur on the outskirts of cities where migrants build homes on land they do not own. These are highly impoverished areas.

Challenges of urbanisation in Dharavi include:

  • Open sewers a lack of sanitation causing water-born diseases such as cholera or typhoid. 
  • Electricity is often sourced illegally using dangerous cable connections. This can cause frequent power cuts. 
  • There is a large unskilled workforce and not enough jobs. 
  • Crime rates are high.
  • There are not enough schools or hospitals.
  • Traffic congestion is high with overcrowded roads and public transport.

How can urban planning help the population of Mumbai?


Over 9 million people out of the 21.3 million people living in Mumbai have a poor standard of living and reside in slums like Dharavi. Indian authorities have developed strategies to try to improve the quality of life for the people living in the slums.


The Mumbai Slum Electrification Project

This aims to provide safe and reliable electricity to slum houses. Electricity costs are 50% lower in the slums than in the city centre.


Mumbai Slum Sanitation Program

This aims to build toilets for up to a millions slum properties. Since 1990, authorities have built over 350 blocks containing 7000 toilets.


Renovation Redevelopment Plans

This aims to gradually help people improve their homes at affordable costs. Individuals are provided with land, money and advice in order to build safe homes.


1) What does population mean?

2) How does population change overtime?

3) What is the demographic transition model?

4) Was China right to enforce the one-child policy?

5) How is Russia responding to underpopulation?

6) What causes urbanisation?

7) Why is the rate of urbanisation slower in the UK than India?

8) Why do people migrate to Mumbai?

9) What is life like in Dharavi?

10) How are India's authorities improving life in the slums?