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Applying the Degree of Urbanisation


In March 2020, the endorsement of the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC) of the new methodology to define cities, towns and rural areas was a key milestone.

In order to know how to apply this methodology to classify an entire territory along the urban-rural continuum classes, six organisations have published the manual Applying the Degree of Urbanisation — A methodological manual to define cities, towns and rural areas for international comparisons.

It presents a harmonised methodology to facilitate international statistical comparisons and to classify the entire territory of a country along an urban-rural continuum into one of three distinct classes: (i) cities; (ii) towns and semi-dense areas; and (iii) rural areas.

The UN Statistics Division and the sponsoring organisations have reviewed the implementation of the methodology for the delineation of cities, urban and rural areas, and reported back to the UN Statistical Commission. As a result, the focus of the work will now shift to three different lines of action.

  • First, to encourage and support countries applying the methodology for compiling statistics by degree of urbanisation (level 1);
  • Second, to improve and update global data;
  • Third, to integrate this new methodology in the documentation of the relevant sustainable development indicators.
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