Introduction Introduction Chapter 5 Chapter 5
Chapter 1 Chapter 1 Chapter 6 Chapter 6
Chapter 2 Chapter 2 Notes for Indicators Notes
Chapter 3 Chapter 3 Notes for boxes Notes for boxes
Chapter 4 Chapter 4 Indicators Indicators
CHAPTER 2 Printer Friendly printer friendly version
Chapter 1 People In Cities: Hope
Countering Desolation

The Unseen Dramas of the Urban Poor

Slums: Unparalleled Concentration of Poverty

The Persistent Disparities

Women's Empowerment and Well-being: The Pillars of Sustainable Cities

Social Contradictions in Growing Cities: Dialogue and Discord

The Changing Demographics of Growing Cities

Improving Urban Governance and Involving the Poor: The Right Thing to Do

Slums: Unparalleled Concentration of Poverty

Poverty, begging and homelessness have been part of the urban scene since the first cities of Mesopotamia. Poor people are, for the most part, consigned to socially segregated areas generically called “slums” (see Box 4). Our concept of modern slums dates back to the industrial revolution as experienced in 19th-century London or early-20th-century New York.(8)



The term “slum” is used to refer to many types of housing, including those that could be upgraded. Terms such as “slum”, “shantytown”, “informal settlement”, “squatter housing” and “low-income community” are often used interchangeably.

According to UN-Habitat, a “slum household” is a group of individuals living under the same roof in an urban area who lack one or more of the following: durable housing, sufficient living area, access to improved water, access to sanitation and secure tenure.(1)

Not all poor people live in slums, and not all people who live in areas defined as slums are poor. However, for simplicity’s sake, this Report equates the urban poor with slum dwellers.

The basic features of slum life have not changed: The difference today is one of scale. Slum dwellers of the new millennium are no longer a few thousand in a few cities of a rapidly industrializing continent. They include one out of every three city dwellers, a billion people, a sixth of the world’s population.(9)

Over 90 per cent of slum dwellers today are in the developing world. South Asia has the largest share, followed by Eastern Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. China and India together have 37 per cent of the world’s slums. In sub-Saharan Africa, urbanization has become virtually synonymous with slum growth; 72 per cent of the region’s urban population lives under slum conditions, compared to 56 per cent in South Asia. The slum population of sub-Saharan Africa almost doubled in 15 years, reaching nearly 200 million in 2005.

The United Nations Millennium Declaration recognized the importance of addressing the situation of slum dwellers in reducing overall poverty and advancing human development. Despite the strength of this commitment, monitoring progress on the situation of slum dwellers has been a challenge.(10)Proactive policy interventions are needed now if nations are to meet the spirit of Target 11 of the Millennium Development Goals(11)and ameliorate the lives of millions of the urban poor.