Just over 40% of the EU population lives in cities

Just over 40% of the EU population lives in cities

Out of 100 persons in the European Union (EU) in 2014, 40 were living in densely-populated areas (or cities), 28 in thinly-populated (or rural) areas and 32 in intermediate areas (or towns and suburbs). There are significant discrepancies between the EU Member States, some of them having a mainly urban population while in others the population is mainly rural


With an overall average score of 6.9 on a scale from 0 to 10, the EU urban population aged 16 and over was globally satisfied with their city’s offer of recreational and green spaces, albeit to a lesser extent than the population living in thinly-populated areas (7.4/10).

On the occasion of World Habitat Day on October 5, 2014, whose theme is “Public spaces for all”, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, published some information on the population in the EU living in cities.

In the EU in 2014, the share of the population living in cities stood at 40.2% in 2014, compared with 27.8% for rural areas and 32.0% for towns and suburbs. Across Member States, more than half of the population was living in cities in the United Kingdom (58.6%) and Cyprus (54.7%). A large part of the population was also concentrated in urban areas notably in Spain (48.5%), Malta (48.0%), Bulgaria (45.7%) and the Netherlands (45.2%).


In contrast, the largest share of the population was living in rural areas in Luxembourg (51.0%), followed by Slovenia (49.8%), Lithuania (47.6%), Slovakia (45.6%), Denmark (44.4%), Ireland (43.5%) and Romania (43.1%). The population living in intermediate areas was predominant in Belgium (57.1%), while the population was almost evenly distributed between urban, intermediate and rural areas in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Finland.


On a scale from 0 (“not satisfied at all”) to 10 (“fully satisfied”), EU residents aged 16 and over and living in cities rated their satisfaction with recreational and green spaces at 6.9. Among the EU Member States, satisfaction with recreational and green areas for the population living in densely-populated areas was highest in the three EU Nordic Member States: Finland (8.5/10), Sweden (8.2/10) and Denmark (8.0/10). At the opposite end of the scale, urban populations with the lowest rated satisfaction were those living in Greece (5.0/10), Bulgaria (5.3/10) and Cyprus (5.9/10).

Data on population by degree of urbanisation presented in this news release are compiled on the basis of the EU Labour Force

The degree of urbanisation classifies local administrative units as cities (densely-populated areas), towns and suburbs (intermediate areas) or rural areas (thinly-populated areas) considering a combination of factors such as population and population density. More information on the typology is available here.

Data on satisfaction with recreational and green areas come from the ad-hoc module on subjective well-being implemented in the 2013 EU-Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC). This module contains subjective questions (e.g. “How satisfied are you with your life these days?”) which complement the mostly objective indicators from existing data collections and social surveys.

Satisfaction with recreational and green areas is measured on an 11 point scale which ranges from 0 (“not satisfied at all”) to 10 (“fully satisfied”). It refers to the respondent’s opinion about the degree of satisfaction with recreational or green areas (places where the respondent can walk, cycle, do some recreational activities, etc.) in the place where he/she lives. It covers the population aged 16 and over.


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