Governing city populations

Current debates about the efficiency of urban governance gravitate around the ‘fit’ between the size of the administrative boundary controlled by a city mayor or governor, and the extent of the ‘wider functional metropolitan’ area. On balance, the closer the ‘fit’ between the number of people living within the administrative boundaries of the city and the overall metropolitan population, the more likely it is that the governance of the metropolitan region will be more effectively managed.

The diagrams on this page compare the number of people who live within the administrative boundaries of 35 selected cities to the population of the wider metropolitan areas, or ‘functional regions’. Since the estimates for these metropolitan populations can vary considerably, the lowest and highest estimates have been included alongside the number of people living within the city boundary. The percentage expresses the proportion of the metropolitan population who live within the jurisdiction of the city authorities. At one extreme, only 8% of Manila’s estimated 22.5 million metropolitan dwellers live under the control of the Mayor of Manila, while at the other, 100% of the estimated 21.5 million people living in Lagos fall under the jurisdiction of the Governor of Lagos. In fact Lagos, Istanbul and Shanghai have adjusted their administrative boundaries to bring the entire metropolitan population under a single jurisdiction. By contrast, the Mayor of Tehran has jurisdiction over 65% of the 12.4m inhabitants living in the metropolitan hinterland around the capital of Iran.

While 8.4m Londoners have been governed by a directly elected mayor since 2000, they still only represent 39% of the number of people who make up the more extensive economic region of the South-East of England, which contains 21.8 million. Similarly, the Governor of Tokyo is responsible for only 34% of what today is still one of the largest metropolitan agglomerations on the world with nearly 40 million inhabitants.

The diagrams also reveal the wide variations that exist, especially in rapidly changing urban regions, in defining precisely the exact numbers of people who live within the metropolitan areas. In Delhi or Jakarta, for example, estimates vary by several million inhabitants.