Indicator 66. Percentage of urban population living in slums or informal settlements (MDG Indicator)

Rationale and definition:

This indicator measures the percentage of the urban population living in slums or informal settlements, as defined by UN-Habitat. The indicator is calculated by taking the number of people living in slums of a city divided by the total population of this city, expressed as a percentage. At the country level, this percentage is calculated by taking the total number of people living in slums of all the cities of a country divided by the total population living in all the cities of the given country.1

UN-Habitat has developed a household level definition of a slum household in order to be able to use existing household-level survey and census data to identify slum dwellers among the urban population. A slum household is a household that lacks any one of the following five elements:

  • Access to basic water (access to sufficient amount of water for family use, at an affordable price, available to household members without being subject to extreme effort)
  • Access to basic sanitation (access to an excreta disposal system, either in the form of a private toilet or a public toilet shared with a reasonable number of people)
  • Security of tenure (evidence of documentation to prove secure tenure status or de facto or perceived protection from evictions)
  • Durability of housing (permanent and adequate structure in non-hazardous location)
  • Sufficient living area (not more than two people sharing the same room)


By sex of head of household, age, and disability.

Comments and limitations:

Not all slums are the same and not all slum dwellers suffer from the same degree of deprivation. The degree of deprivation depends on how many of the five conditions that define slums are prevalent within a slum household. Approximately one-fifth of slum households live in extremely poor conditions, defined by UN-Habitat as lacking more than three basic shelter needs.2 The definition of the water and sanitation component of the index may need to be reviewed to ensure full consistency with the water supply and sanitation indicators currently under development by the WHO/UNICEF JMP (indicators 57 and 58).

Preliminary assessment of current data availability by Friends of the Chair:


Primary data source:

Household surveys and citizen/community-run surveys, such as those developed by Slum Dwellers’ International and the Cities Alliance.

Potential lead agency or agencies:

UN-Habitat and the Global City Indicators Facility (GCIF).