The world’s most rapidly shrinking cities

by on June 19, 2017 at 2:18 am in Current Affairs, Data Source | Permalink

1 William Sjostrom June 19, 2017 at 4:12 am

Maybe, but the reporting of a population change in a city in North Korea to the nearest tenth of percent ought to set off alarm bells. Estimates of anything in North Korea are hard to come by, so no honest reporting of changes out to suggest that degree of precision, and casts doubt on the reliability of the numbers.

2 Tom T. June 19, 2017 at 7:20 am


3 anonymous June 19, 2017 at 10:47 am

Maybe the numerical count was only to two significant digits already. Would you then adjust the percentage change to one significant digit? The percentage change is always going to be some number with a million decimals so they clearly have rounded it.

4 Jay June 19, 2017 at 11:58 am

Would you even believe the number with one significant digit precision? What other way other than to either a) look at pictures from the sky or b) believe a visiting Chinese statistician? Neither of these seem that accurate.

5 Andrew M June 19, 2017 at 4:55 am

In Agadir, as in many cities in Morocco, the population has been moving out of the cramped conditions of the city centre and into more spacious homes in the surrounding suburbs. Some of those suburbs are outside the city boundaries, so those numbers aren’t counted as Agadir proper. This seems to be government policy in Morocco.

Most of the rest of the countries listed have sub-replacement fertility and/or high emigration. For example, a lot of the native Russians who were living in Latvia have left the country (either returned to Russia or migrated westward). Japan’s demographic story is well-known.

6 Slocum June 19, 2017 at 7:42 am

Yep, my first thought was — are these cases of a metro area shrinking? Or are they like Detroit, with big population shifts from a central city to the suburbs?

7 John Thacker June 20, 2017 at 5:41 am

Hmm, the 2015 Japanese Census showed an increase in Sendai proper from 2010, even as the metro area declined due to the 2011 tsunami and aftermath. So some of these numbers may be metro area. I suspect that the UN is simply relaying numbers from governments, which use different standards.

8 dearieme June 19, 2017 at 7:54 am

It’s a special case of a general rule: all talk of ‘cities’ rather than conurbations tends to be rubbish.

9 The Cuckmeister-General June 19, 2017 at 5:34 pm

However shrinkage is a real problem for all the readers of this blog.

10 Jan June 19, 2017 at 7:26 pm

I thought the vast majority of Russians interested in leaving Latvia a
had already left. (No doubt, there was a long exodus of ethnic Russians from former Soviet republics.) Haven’t seen recent data though. My bet is most of those leaving recently were headed west rather than Russia.

11 John Thacker June 20, 2017 at 5:35 am

Sendai is not a case of demographics, though that contributes a bit, as it is one of the youngest cities in Japan and was until recently growing. It’s a case of the massive tsunami in 2011. Same reason why New Orleans had a population drop after Katrina.

12 Matt June 19, 2017 at 5:05 am

I was last in Riga several years ago, but it was a pretty and interesting place. Yet, it was easy to see how it might have trouble – easy for it to be expensive, but not a lot of high-paying jobs, a local language that’s not otherwise useful, and a second language (Russian) with lots of local disfavor and also not super useful in the broader world. With a lot of luck, it might have turned into a tourist destination, or been a bit like Prague in the early 90’s, but circumstances didn’t align for that.

13 Cptn Obvious June 19, 2017 at 5:58 am

Financial crisis. All latvians with more than one brain cell immigrated. Same for all greeks, italians, spaniards, portuguese, BUT according to the very serious people, ” austerity” worked. Right.

14 Dick the Butcher June 19, 2017 at 8:01 am

I think you mean “emigrated.”

15 Lanigram June 19, 2017 at 10:47 am

Austerity worked just as defined – Germany is doing very well.

16 Lanigram June 19, 2017 at 10:57 am

Should be “…as designed…”

17 Cptn Obvious June 19, 2017 at 5:59 am

Can somebody explain what’s the deal with the Bangladesh city?

18 Axa June 19, 2017 at 7:14 am

The FT article talks about deindustrialisation, how Pittsburgh and the German Ruhr region apparently stopped decay.

The most interesting quote is this one:

-The region focused on developing new industries related to its existing, declining ones rather than pivoting to a completely different field, he found. The Ruhr’s local government also shifted focus from trying to attract inward investment towards growing local businesses and talent instead; and a decentralisation policy added to the “renewal from within” approach.

This reflects one piece of advice Tom Murphy has for other areas facing deindustrialisation: play to your strengths. “Towns and cities need to be brutal in thinking about what their competitive advantages are. Every city has its place but it can be a very brutal conversation about what that is, you can’t necessarily be what you want to be.”-

However, Khulna is unmentioned in the article.

19 Ted Craig June 19, 2017 at 7:19 am

I’m confused, too. According to this article from last week, Khulna is facing a crisis from unplanned growth:

20 DJF June 19, 2017 at 7:29 am

Probably just miscounting based on the official boundries and definitions

Lots of offices and factories being built in the city which force people to live outside the city boundries and so are not counted

Lots of illegal residences inside the city so the people living there are not officially counted

21 Lanigram June 19, 2017 at 11:12 am

>…illegal residences.,.

Those are the favelas Tyler is so very fond of. When average is really over, most of the 80% will live in one. Tacos, chilli peppers, and cheap beans for the peons!!!

22 Cptn Obvious June 19, 2017 at 6:00 am

Exactly, i suspect, that it has a high degree of prevalence here.

23 spandrell June 19, 2017 at 7:32 am

Sendai is thriving too, one of the few places growing in Japan right now.

99%of reports about cities fail to understand the utterly basic proposition that administrative city boundaries are arbitrary.

24 Doug June 19, 2017 at 7:42 am

Can’t speak for the others, but Riga and Sarajevo are both some of the most lovely cities in Europe. Plus cheap as hell. Worth a visit.

25 ladderff June 19, 2017 at 11:22 am


26 Ted Craig June 19, 2017 at 8:41 am

I haven’t read the article, but based on the comments, it sounds like these cities fall into two categories: failing cities that are driving people away and thriving cities with suburban growth.

27 James H June 19, 2017 at 10:39 am

You sure about that? Census says City of Detroit dropped from 921,149 to 677,116 over the period, a 26.5 percent decline.

(Though the 2010 Census pretty much indicated that their intercensal estimates from 2000 to 2009 were probably off.)

28 Cooper June 19, 2017 at 1:50 pm

Detroit city proper lost roughly 25% of its population from 2000 to 2010. The metro area’s population grew a little bit.

It’s difficult to make clear international comparisons across cities because the definition of a city’s boundaries fluctuates so much.

29 Joe Teicher June 19, 2017 at 11:02 am

How can Aleppo not be on the list?

30 Sam the Sham June 19, 2017 at 12:52 pm

What’s Aleppo?


31 Jan June 19, 2017 at 7:30 pm

It’s the city were gonna save from the bad guys with our friends the Russians while shoot each other’s planes down. They’re crossing lines and so are we. Bombs away!

32 Dan June 20, 2017 at 6:38 am

I imagine demographic data for Syria is even harder to get than for North Korea

33 Michael June 19, 2017 at 9:02 pm

Since it’s hated I can’t read it all, but wonder if they address mid-sized American manufacturing cites that have shrunk. Since the turn of the century, Erie, PA went from 118,000 to 98,000 and this was not due to suburban migration as the region stayed stable at 276k.

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