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Rural Living

The country with the highest total number of people living in rural areas is India, about the same number as the following countries China, Indonesia and Bangladesh put together. But while India has the highest total number of their population living in a rural environment, with its 67 per cent share of the population, there are 42 countries with a higher share.

Within the next five years rural living will have reached its climax. According to the United Nations World Urbanization Prospects (a biennial publication from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs), rural populations will have reached their absolute high in 2022 with approximately 3.38 billion people. This is only slightly up from the current 3.37 billion people, showing how the number of people not living in cities has flatlined since the turn of the century and comes after a period of continuous growth since the 1950s when only 1.78 billion people lived in the countryside. The current long-term projections see this number going slightly down to 3.2 billion people by 2050.
While the rural population has become a minority globally (at approximately 46 per cent), the majority of those are increasingly concentrated in the poorer parts of the world. Sixty-nine per cent of people in the least developed countries live in rural areas, while this number is at only 20 per cent in higher-income countries.

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Technical Notes

Territory size shows the proportion of all people living in rural areas, that live in that territory in 2014.

Data sources

This map uses data by United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division published in the World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision (last accessed March 2018). We aim to map as complete data as possible and therefore estimate data for missing values. In some cases, missing data for very small territories is not used in the cartogram and that area is therefore omitted in the map.

Further notes on the data, as well as all modifications to the original data source are noted in our data sheets. Data for this map will soon be available as a download.

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