TRENDS IN URBANISATION INSOUTH-EAST ASIA
South-east Asia is one of the world's least urbanised regions. Aside from Singapore, which is 100% urban, only Malaysia and recently, Indonesia, have officially passed the point where 50 per cent of their population lives in urban areas. However, these statistics are misleading, in two ways. First, the official definitions of urban areas differ considerably from country to country, and in some cases understate the proportion of population living in what most observers would consider to be urban areas. Second, the spread of urban lifestyles and influences to areas classified as rural is profound, and means that rural areas are very different from what they were a few decades ago (Jones 1997: 239–41).
TRENDS IN DISTRIBUTION OF URBAN POPULATION BY SIZE CLASS
About half of Asia's urban population lives in towns and cities with populations below half a million. If we go behind the regional figures and focus on two Southeast Asian countries — Indonesia and Malaysia — some interesting facts emerge. First, the proportion in different urban size class groups fluctuates when cities move from one size class to another (as when Jakarta moved into the 5 million plus class size in 1980). Malaysia does not yet have any city in the 5 million plus class range, at least not when the Federal Territory boundary is used to measure the population of Kuala Lumpur.
Both countries appear to be well above the Asian average in the share of small towns and cities (i.e. less than 500,000) in their overall urban population distribution. In Malaysia, this proportion has moved down over time, whereas in Indonesia, it has moved up over time; in 2010, the proportions were 70 and 74 per cent respectively, well above the proportion for Asia as a whole (round about 50 per cent). However, in both cases, this proportion would fall sharply if the reality of mega-urban regions (MURs) were taken properly into account.
In Indonesia, the number of urban localities increased from 12,351 in 2000 to 15,786 in 2010, thus increasing the proportion of urban localities to total localities from 17.96 per cent to 20.46 per cent (Firman 2013: 3). The million cities all grew more slowly than the national population, with the exception of Bekasi, Tangerang, Depok and Makassar.