Has urbanization slowed down in Pakistan?

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



Pakistan is the seventh largest contributor to world urban growth and exhibits high levels of urbanization. The recent 2017 Population Census results show a slowing of urban growth. We question whether this apparent slowdown reflects lowering of the rate of natural increase and migration, or is the result of a disconnect between the administrative definition of urban and actual reality. Alternative estimates presented here suggest that the 2017 Census may have underestimated urbanization by as much as 22.2 per cent, that is, the actual level of urbanization may be 44.5 per cent compared to 36.4 per cent reported in the census. We decompose the urban growth to assess the relative impact of natural increase, reclassification and migration and we utilize alternative methods of classification of urban areas to assess urbanization levels for Pakistan and its provinces. Continuing high levels of urban fertility and natural increase are the major contributors to urban growth. Internal migration is the next biggest contributor, however directions of movements may be changing. These findings have implications for the forthcoming 2022 census to improve the enumeration of urban areas and for urban planning to take advantage of the beneficial effects of building connectivity between small, medium, and large cities.






Population, Environmental Risks, and the Climate Crisis (PERCC)