x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Planet's seven billionth baby due on October 31

Bookmakers have made Asia the hot favourite for the symbolic arrival, possibly for no better reason than that the sun rises in the east, giving Asian mothers a head start.

HONG KONG // Somewhere in the world - Asia would be a good bet - a pregnant woman is carrying a baby destined to be the planet's seven billionth human being.

The historic baby is due to be born on October 31, the United Nations Population Division predicts.

Bookmakers have made Asia the hot favourite for the symbolic arrival, possibly for no better reason than that the sun rises in the east, giving Asian mothers a head start.

If they are right, another reasonable bet would be that the baby will grow up to be part of another historic demographic shift and live in a city.

By mid-2022, there will for the first time be more people living in Asia's urban areas than in the countryside as "a tidal wave of humanity" surges towards the cities in search of jobs, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) says.

The statistics are startling. About 1.1 billion people will migrate from the countryside into Asia's cities in less than 20 years, according to the ADB. That is about 137,000 every day.

India needs to build the equivalent of a city of Chicago every year to provide enough commercial and residential space for its migrants, according to McKinsey Global Institute research.

And 100 new cities from China will join the list of the top 600 urban centres.