Contribution of metropolitan areas to national economies

Capitals, typically the richest metropolitan areas, recorded per capita GDP 37% higher than national per capita GDP, on average.

OECD metropolitan areas (i.e., urban areas with population of greater than 500 000) account for 55% of the total OECD population, 59% of the employed, and around 60% of the total GDP in the OECD area. However, with respect to GDP, different patterns are observed across continents. While metropolitan areas represent on average less than half (48%) of total GDP in European OECD countries, they generate two-thirds (66%) of national GDP in OECD countries in Asia and the Americas (Figure 4.6).

4.6. GDP and employment in metropolitan areas as a % of the national values, 2016

Note: Employment for the OECD includes 226 metropolitan areas.


Capital metropolitan areas (i.e., metropolitan areas that include the capital of the country) are the richest metropolitan areas for 22 out of the 31 countries covered in this report. GDP per capita of capital metropolitan areas is on average 37% higher than the national value (Figure 4.7). The richest capital metropolitan areas, relative to the overall country, are Bratislava (Slovak Republic), Warsaw (Poland), Paris (France), Prague (Czech Republic), Budapest (Hungary), and London (United Kingdom), with GDP per capita values that are 50% higher than that of the broader country in which they are located.

4.7. Metropolitan areas with the highest GDP per capita compared to the national average, 2016

Note: Capitals are in bold type. Metropolitan areas are ordered in terms of the ratio between the maximum and the country average.



In 31 OECD countries, 329 Metropolitan areas were identified (functional urban areas with a population of greater than 500 000), according to the OECD EU methodology that identifies metropolitan areas on the basis of densely populated cities and their commuting zones (travel to work journeys) to reflect the economic geography of the population’s daily commuting patterns (see Annex A for details).

Shifting back to metropolitan areas in general, annual GDP growth has been 32% higher in metropolitan areas than in the rest of the country since 2000. In Denmark, Canada, France, Estonia, and Ireland, annual GDP growth in metropolitan areas has been twice as high as the growth in non-metropolitan areas (Figure 4.8). Metropolitan areas have contributed to 51% of annual GDP per capita growth in the OECD. In Ireland and Denmark metropolitan areas have contributed more than two-third of total per capita GDP growth, with a contribution above 80% in the case of France (Figure 4.9).

4.8. Annual GDP growth in metropolitan areas, 2000-16

Note: Ordered by the highest to lowest difference between the metropolitan areas and the rest of the country.


4.9. Contribution of metropolitan areas to annual GDP per capita growth



OECD (2018), “Metropolitan areas”, OECD Regional Statistics (database),

Reference years and territorial level

Metropolitan areas as defined in OECD (2012).

Further information

OECD (2012), Redefining “Urban”: A New Way to Measure Metropolitan Areas, OECD Publishing, Paris,

European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC); Columbia University, Center for International Earth Science Information Network - CIESIN (2015): GHS population grid, derived from GPW4, multitemporal (1975, 1990, 2000, 2015). European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC) [Dataset] PID:

Figure notes

4.6: Only for employment related values, 2015 was the latest available year for the United Kingdom, and Portugal; 2014 for Austria, France, and Poland; and 2011for Ireland, and Sweden.

4.6-4.7: Only for GDP related values, 2015 was the latest available year for Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Spain, Greece, Latvia, Sweden, Italy, Germany, France, Korea, Poland, and Colombia; 2014 for Japan, and Ireland; and 2013 for Canada.

4.8-4.9: 2001 was the first available year for Germany, Japan, United States, and Canada; 2003 for Mexico; and 2004 for Belgium.

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