Today, cities occupy just 2.6% of the earth’s crust, but are home to more than 50% of the world’s population, generate more than 80% of the world’s GDP and use 75% of the world’s natural resources. The UN estimates that, because of these issues, our global population will rise to 9.6 billion by 2050. This is why the majority of this growth will occur in cities, with an estimated 66% of the global population living in urban areas by 2050. Cities are evolving faster than at any point in our history, putting them on the cusp of major transformation which, if managed well, could lead to unprecedented economic growth and prosperity for all, but if managed in an uncoordinated manner could drive social, economic and environmental decline.

Cities need resources such as water, food and energy to be viable because urban sprawl reduces the available water catchment areas and agricultural lands, and increases the demand for energy. So, better application of technology can boost agricultural productivity and ensure more efficient transmission of electricity, but many cities will continue to struggle to provide these resources to an ever-growing urban population. Beyond these basic requirements, haphazard growth will see the reduction of green spaces within cities, negatively affecting liveability. As fresh water becomes scarce and fertile lands diminish, food prices may escalate, hitting the poorest hardest.

When it comes to both the provision of basic resources and resilience against environmental threats, the forecast is uneven for different groups of urban inhabitants. As the number of urban super-rich grows, many cities will also see increased numbers of urban poor. The widening gap between the haves and have-nots will be accentuated in the megacities of the future. Such inequalities, when left unchecked, will destabilize society and upend any benefits of urban development. There is a critical need for policy-makers to ensure that the fruits of progress are shared equitably.

Technology will be increasingly used in the development and running of cities of the future. Smart planning used in Singapore can harness solar energy for use in housing estates and create man-made wetlands for ecological balance. Smart mobility technology can alleviate traffic gridlocks which plague many cities. The use of environmental technologies which can cool buildings more efficiently or run vehicles that are less polluting will also lead to better future cities. Installing sensors in the homes of ageing seniors living alone can connect them to the community and summon help when they are unwell or hurt.

The multiplier effect of mobilizing the required investment will be manifold in improved human-centric, high-quality, sustainable, affordable urban services.

Job opportunities in urban development include:

  • Strategic master planning
  • Flood prevention and drainage modelling
  • Urban design frameworks
  • Town centre design
  • Urban revitalisation
  • Open space and recreation master planning
  • Community consultation
  • Highways and Tunnels construction
  • Team Leaders for Development Bank funded project (e.g. World Bank, ADB, AIIB, EU)
  • Contracts Experts for Development Bank funded project (e.g. World Bank, ADB, AIIB, EU)

Learn more about the future of urban development here:

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