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7.10 Proportion of urban population living in slums

Modified on 2012/11/05 11:57 by MDG Wiki Handbook Categorized as Goal 7


Goal 7. Ensure environmental sustainability Target 7.D: By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers


The proportion of urban population living in slums is the proportion of the urban population that live in households lacking one or more of the following basic services: improved water, improved sanitation, durable housing, sufficient living area or security of tenure.

This indicator is expressed as a percentage.

A slum household is defined as a group of individuals living under the same roof lacking one or more of the following basic services: access to improved drinking water source; access to improved sanitation facilities; durability of housing; sufficient living area; security of tenure. However, since information on security of tenure is not available for most countries, only the first four indicators are used to define a slum household. An improved drinking water source is a facility that, by nature of its construction or through active intervention, is protected from outside contamination and in particular from contamination with fecal matter. Improved drinking water sources include: piped water into dwelling, plot or yard; public tap/standpipe; borehole/tube well; protected dug well; protected spring; rainwater collection and bottled water (bottled water is included if a secondary available source is also improved). Improved drinking water sources exclude unprotected wells, unprotected springs, water provided by carts with small tanks/drums, tanker truck-provided water and bottled water (if a secondary source is not improved) or surface water taken directly from rivers, ponds, streams, lakes, dams, or irrigation channels.

An improved sanitation facility is defined as a facility that hygienically separates human waste from human contact. Improved sanitation facilities include flush/pour-flush toilets or latrines connected to a sewer, septic tank, or pit; ventilated improved pit latrines; pit latrines with a slab or platform of any material which covers the pit entirely, except for the drop hole; and composting toilets/latrines. Unimproved facilities include public or shared facilities of an otherwise acceptable type; flush/pour-flush toilets or latrines which discharge directly into an open sewer or ditch; pit latrines without a slab; bucket latrines; hanging toilets or latrines which directly discharge into water bodies or into the open; and the practice of open defecation in the bush, field or bodies of water. Durability of housing. A house is considered “durable” if it is built on a non-hazardous location and has a structure permanent and adequate enough to protect its inhabitants from the extremes of climatic conditions, such as rain, heat, cold and humidity. For the estimation procedure the durability of housing is measured by the building materials for the roof, walls and/or the floor. For example, an earthen floor is an indicator of a non-durable house. Sufficient living area. A house is considered to provide a sufficient living area for the household members if not more than three people share the same habitable room that is a minimum of four square meters in area. Secure tenure. Secure tenure is the right of all individuals and groups to effective protection by the State against arbitrary unlawful evictions. People have secure tenure when there is evidence of documentation that can be used as proof of secure tenure status or when there is either de facto or perceived protection against forced evictions. Urban population. For city level data, the standard area of reference is the urban agglomeration. The urban agglomeration is defined as the built-up or densely populated area containing the city proper; suburbs, and continuously settled commuter areas. However, because of national differences in characteristics that distinguish urban from rural areas a single definition does not apply to all countries. Each country should use the definitions adopted by its National Statistical Office as used in the national population and housing censuses and national household surveys.

Method of computation
Household survey data are tallied ensuring that households lacking more than one basic service are counted only once. The indicator is computed by dividing the number of people living in urban households lacking one or more basic service by the total urban population and multiplying by 100.


This indicator measures the proportion of urban dwellers living in deprived housing conditions. It is a key indicator measuring the adequacy of the basic human need for shelter. Overcrowding, inadequate housing, lack of improved water and improved sanitation are manifestations of poverty. They are associated with health risks and are often detrimental to human and economic development.

The indicator enables disaggregation of other urban indicators into slum and non-slum. Many indicators show that the situation in rural areas is worse than in urban areas, but such comparisons mask differences within cities across social groups that are clustered in poor areas lacking basic services such as improved water, improved sanitation, durable house or sufficient living area. However, by disaggregating urban data into slum and non-slum, it is possible to show that the situation in some slum areas can be as bad as, or worse than, the situation in rural areas.


The preferable data sources are population and housing censuses and household surveys that contain information on all five components of slum: improved water, improved sanitation, durable housing, sufficient living area and secure tenure. Nationally representative household surveys, which typically collect information on water, sanitation and housing conditions, include Urban Inequities Surveys (UIS), Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), Demographic Health Surveys (DHS), World Health Surveys (WHS), Living Standards and Measurement Surveys (LSMS), Core Welfare Indicator Questionnaires (CWIQ), and the Pan Arab Project for Family Health Surveys (PAPFAM). The survey questions and response categories pertaining to access to drinking water are fully harmonized between MICS and DHS. The same standard questions are being promoted for inclusion into other survey instruments and can be found at www.wssinfo.org or at ww2.unhabitat.org/programmes/guo. National-level household surveys are generally conducted every 3-5 years in most developing countries, while censuses are generally conducted every 10 years. National Statistics Offices usually carry out censuses and often are involved in carrying out nationally representative sample surveys.


It is preferable that all five components of the slum indicator be sufficiently disaggregated in the sources used for computation. For ways to disaggregate the data by facility type, see “DISAGGREGATION” for Indicator 7.8 for improved drinking water and see “DISAGGREGATION” for Indicator 7.9 for improved sanitation.

Most UIS and DHS disaggregate the durability of the material used to build a house into: rudimentary, semi modern or modern.

In determining sufficient living area, it is important to distinguish rooms used for sleeping and rooms used for other purpose. The calculation of the overcrowding indicator is based on only the number of rooms used for sleeping.


Defining a slum at the household level presents a compromise between theoretical and methodological considerations. The definition is simple, operational and pragmatic. It can be easily understood and adapted by governments and other partners. It offers clear, measurable indicators, provided as a proxy to capture some of the essential attributes of slums. And it uses household-level data, which are collected on a regular basis by governments and non-governmental organizations, that are accessible and available in most parts of the world. However, the definition lacks the spatial component as well as the type of shelter deprivation. As the indicator does not take into account the number and extent of the five conditions of housing deprivation, it does not provide information on the severity of slum conditions. Four out of the five component indicators measure physical expression of slum conditions: lack of water, lack of sanitation, overcrowded conditions, and non-durable housing structures. These indicators focus attention on the circumstances that surround slum life, depicting deficiencies and casting poverty as an attribute of the environments in which slum dwellers live. The fifth indicator—security of tenure—considers legality, which is not as easy to measure or monitor, since the tenure status of slum dwellers often depends on de facto or de jure rights—or lack thereof. There is no current mechanism to monitor secure tenure, since household-level data on property entitlement, evictions, ownership, and other indicators of secure tenure are not widely available through mainstream systems of data collection, such as censuses and household surveys. Alternative analytical measures that can be considered include identifying the five components of deprivation separately and distinguishing households with single shelter deprivation (lacking only one basic service) from those with multiple shelter deprivation (lacking two or more basic services).


Households headed by women tend to have lower incomes and are therefore more likely to lack durable dwellings to accommodate all household members. Divorced, separated or widowed women are more likely to head households in which their children live, with limited resources to improve their housing conditions. In certain situation, they become homeless.


The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) is the agency responsible for compiling data and calculating this indicator at the international level.

Estimated data for this indicator are obtained via an initial country desk review of primary (published or electronic) sources. Data can be obtained either from the country or from official international database publications such as Demographic and Health Survey-DHS (http://www.measuredhs.com) or Multiple Indicators Clusters Survey – MICS (http://www.childinfo.org) or Integrated Public Use Micro data Series –IMPUS (http://www.ipums.org), or national official databases, or via CDs.

In some instances information is cross-checked with alternative estimates or sources, or with other countries with similar characteristics. Many countries in Africa and Asia have done DHS surveys more than once. When these data are available, both data files are accessed as a confirmatory measure.

Estimations are produced only for countries with good quality household surveys or census data. Only those survey and census data that are well documented and considered valid are included in the estimation. Some surveys are not considered valid because their classification of facilities has inadequate detail or the categories are not comparable with other surveys. Regional and Global estimates are based on countries with available data. Individual country estimates are summed to regional and global totals. Missing data for countries are estimated based on the average of countries with data.




UNITED NATIONS HUMAN SETTLEMENTS PROGRAMME (UN-HABITAT) (2003) Guide to Monitoring Target 11: Improving the lives of 100 million slum dwellers – Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. Nairobi. Available from http://www.unhabitat.org/pmss/getPage.asp?page=bookView&book=1930

UNITED NATIONS HUMAN SETTLEMENTS PROGRAMME (UN-HABITAT) (biannual) State of the World’s Cities. Nairobi. Available from (25mb) www.unhabitat.org/pmss/getElectronicVersion.asp?nr=2562&alt=1

UNITED NATIONS HUMAN SETTLEMENTS PROGRAMME (UN-HABITAT) (2009) Urban Indicators Guidelines. Nairobi. Available from www.unhabitat.org/documents/Guo/Urban_Indicators_Guidelines_Edition_2_2009.pdf

UNITED NATIONS HUMAN SETTLEMENTS PROGRAMME (UN-HABITAT) (online) Urban Indicators. Nairobi. Available from www.unhabitat.org/stats/

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