Redefining

Redefining "Urban"

A New Way to Measure Metropolitan Areas You do not have access to this content

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Author(s):
OECD
Publication Date :
19 Apr 2012
Pages :
148
ISBN :
9789264174108 (PDF) ; 9789264174054 (print)
DOI :
10.1787/9789264174108-en

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This report compares urbanisation trends in OECD countries on the basis of a newly defined OECD methodology which enables cross-country comparison of the socio-econimic and environmental performance of metropolitan areas in OECD countries. The methodology is presented and results from its application to 27 OECD countries are discussed together with policy implication both on national growth and governance of cities. The report also includes three original papers that present the urbanisation dynamics and prospects in China and South Africa and the governance challenges resulting from the new policy agenda on cities in the United Kingdom.

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    Foreword and Acknowledgements
    There is no shortage of research on the changing nature of cities and the ways the increasing urbanisation is shaping modern life. Yet too often we fail to ask this simple, but fundamental question: What is a city? How do we determine what is, and what is not an urban reality. Of course we know that London is a bustling UK city, and sparsely populated farmland and moorland in Cumbria are not. In South Africa, we are aware that Gauteng province is urban, while Northern Cape province is not. Increasingly, however, geographical areas are emerging that do not so clearly fit inside or outside such a classification. As metropolitan areas evolve, as mid-sized cities reveal characteristics that are both urban and suburban, as cities and rural life are increasingly interconnected, defining just what we mean when we talk about cities becomes crucial.
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    Reader's guide
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    Executive summary
    Urbanisation is a dominant trend worldwide, affecting economies, societies, cultures and the environment. More than half the world’s population now lives in cities, and as much as two-thirds is expected to do so by 2050. The coming together of people, business and other activities in cities is a key process in the development and maturing of economies and societies. How urban systems function is crucial to future economic prosperity and a better quality of life for more than three billion people, and counting.
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    Redefining urban areas in OECD countries
    This chapter sets out a new methodology for defining urban areas, as functional economic places, in a consistent way across countries. The methodology is applied to 28 OECD countries, where more than 1 000 urban areas (with population greater than 50 000) are identified and compared according to their size, form of development, density and population growth.
    The derivation of a methodology able to describe urban areas can help respond to relevant policy questions. First, it can be used to better analyse the links between urbanisation and economic growth, by taking into account that development does not necessarily imply further increases in the size of the metropolitan areas. Development can occur through a strengthening of linkages among medium-sized urban areas. Second, it opens up to monitoring the quality of life of the people living in urban areas and the sustainable use of resources. The work presented is, thus, meant to be a first step towards the development of a new international dataset aimed at monitoring more inclusive forms of growth and sustainable development of both large and medium-sized urban areas.
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    Urbanisation and migration trends in South Africa
    This chapter classifies and defines cities in South Africa from a migration vantage point. It first focuses on the differential urbanisation concept as a systemic framework that can explain how urban systems evolve and how the process determines the position and expected dynamism of individual cities within the urban hierarchy. Within this theoretical framework, the chapter reviews population redistribution patterns in South Africa since the mid- 1990s and compares them to population redistribution processes in the three largest urban agglomerations of South Africa. Finally, population redistribution movements in and around these core cities are used to explain: i) current morphological trends; ii) the relationship between the core cities and their surrounding cities; iii) the interpretation of functional and administrative space in terms of these trends. The chapter also reflects on the potential value to adapt the OECD methodology of functional urban areas to South Africa.
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    Urbanisation in China today
    China’s rapid demographic transition is expected to lead to a contraction in the working-age population. Securing labour supply will depend on whether urbanisation can bring sufficient workers into urban areas. This chapter describes the urban system in China and examines how the urban population is defined. It then discusses the current level of urbanisation, analyses the regional spatial distribution of the urban population, and summarises general trends of urban population distribution. It uses this understanding to reflect on the potential for application of the OECD methodology of urban areas to China. Finally, the longer term urbanisation patterns in China are briefly discussed.
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    Focusing on functionality
    This chapter gathers evidence about the spatial geography of the UK economy and reviews the current direction of sub-national development policy in England. It discusses how increasing analysis of the functioning of the economy has influenced policy over the last decade, including recent decisions to abolish institutions operating at the regional administrative scale in favour of those operating at scales closer to the functional economy.
    In this context, it explores how the OECD common methodology to define functional urban areas could be a significant new tool for understanding the development, and measuring the performance, of key cities and their surrounding functional economies. Further, the chapter illustrates other forms of economic functionality beyond the labour market definition which underpins the OECD methodology. It shows how working with different understandings of functionality can provide further insights about economic opportunities and challenges for further developments of the work on international comparison of functional urban areas.
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