Cities driving the world


The recently published Global Urban Competitiveness Report* argues that advanced cities have driven the world’s progress and even led to changes in the world’s development patterns since the first industrial revolution of the 18th century.

As we enter the information revolution the activities of the leading cities are expected to change from the provision, exchange and consumption of labour services to the production, exchange and consumption of information, knowledge and ideas. This means intelligent manufacturing cities such as Shenzhen, Tianjin and Foshan are likely to exert an increasing influence on the world.

The following is a competitive ranking of 1,006 of the world’s cities inhabited by at least 500,000 people. The ranking reflects the industrial base, and the value-added of each city as part of the international division of labour and production network. The more indispensable a city is to this network, the higher its position in the global ranking.

Asia accounts for 565 of the world’s top 1,006 cities, while North America makes up 131, 126 are European, 102 African, 75 are from South America and seven are from Oceania.

* National Academy of Economic Strategy, CASS (NAES, CASS) and United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-HABITAT

Five major countries

The top of the table is dominated by five countries, with the US being home to 61 of the top 200 cities. China provides another 39 and Germany contributes 12, while Britain has nine and Japan has seven among the top 200. Historically the world’s leading cities have driven urban settlements to be increasingly inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. This trend is expected to continue with the five major countries being locomotives for change.



Hover/tap to see the ranking of cities  

Global urban class

The report uses a hierarchical clustering method to analyse the 1,006 cities. The following graphic includes only those that are considered international cities. The index covers urban centres categorised in the following scale.

Mind the gap

The highest and lowest ranking cities from the top five economies.


Compare how the economic competitiveness has changed for Chinese cities between 2017 and 2019. Five Chinese cities rank in the top 20, according to the report.
Economic competitiveness index, scale 0 to 1

Five Chinese cities rank in the top 20, according to the report.
Economic competitiveness index, scale 0 to 1

By the numbers

Compare cities across different factors using the menu.

(People per sq km)

Monthly cost of a three-bedroom flat in the city centre (US$)

(US$ per year)

Ability of cities to provide security for their residents, businesses and visitors, combining digital, infrastructure, health and personal security (0 to 100)

The world’s population

After 1950, the world's economy, employment, and industrial structures have undergone tremendous changes. The economic revolution has led to the growth of the world's population and the expansion of cities. With the rapid development of automation, the jobs of 800 million people are expected to be lost to machines by 2030.

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