What are the characteristics of world cities and megacities, and how has their distribution changed since 1950?

Outline characteristics of world cities and megacities and their changing distribution since 1950

World Cities
World cities are urban areas with an important role in the global economic system.  World cities have some of the following characteristics:

  • A variety of international financial services, notably in finance, insurance, real estate, banking, accountancy, and marketing
  • Headquarters of several multinational corporations
  • The existence of financial headquarters, a stock exchange, and major financial institutions
  • Domination of the trade and economy of a large surrounding area
  • Major manufacturing centres with port and container facilities
  • Considerable decision-making power on a daily basis and at a global level
  • Centres of new ideas and innovation in business, economics, culture, and politics
  • Centres of media and communications for global networks
  • Dominance of the national region with great international significance
  • High percentage of residents employed in the services sector and information sector
  • High-quality educational institutions, including renowned universities, international student attendance and research facilities
  • Multi-functional infrastructure offering some of the best legal, medical, and entertainment facilities in the country
  • Typically highly diverse in terms of language, culture, religion, and ideologies.

World cities are categorised into alpha, beta and gamma.  The alpha cities are the most important role in the global economic system and are further categorised into alpha++, alpha+, alpha and alpha-, with alpha++ being the most important.

List of alpha++, alpha+ and alpha cities:
London, New York City
Singapore, Hong Kong, Paris, Beijing, Tokyo, Dubai, Shanghai
Sydney, São Paulo, Milan, Chicago, Mexico City, Mumbai, Moscow,             Frankfurt, Madrid, Warsaw, Johannesburg, Toronto, Seoul, Istanbul,
Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Amsterdam, Brussels, Los Angeles

Map of World cities
Image result for global cities
World cities come and go… as cities become more significant in global economic system they will move up the ‘rankings’, equally they can become less significant.  For example, Dubai has recently taken a more important role in the global economic system.  The photos below show Dubai in 1991 and in 2017.

Image result for Dubai photo then and now

A Megacity is an urban area with a population of over 10 million people.  In 1950 there were two megacities; New York and Tokyo, now there are believed to be nearly 50.


The following website shows projected changes to the distribution of the world’s megacities: