China starts counting its wary population
By Ben Blanchard
BEIJING (Reuters) - China launched a once-in-a-decade census on Monday in an exercise that will form a basis for policy-making in the world's most populous country, but is likely to face resistance from residents wary of government officials.
Six million census-takers will fan out across the country from the booming cities on the eastern coast to the remote mountains of restive Tibet as they try to visit some 400 million households over a 10-day period.
"The census is the basis for making policies on education, medical care, employment and social warfare and aid," Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily said in an editorial. "This is the biggest social mobilization of peaceful times."
The exercise will cost about 700 million yuan ($104.9 million), with 90 percent of respondents being asked 18 questions, including details about eduction and ethnic groups. The results will be released next April.
For the first time, China is counting people based on where they actually live, rather than where they are registered under the household registration, or 'hukou', system.
The results will help measure the degree of China's urbanization, as well as previously uncounted children born in defiance of the one-child policy, and will outline a country undergoing a massive population shift.
It will show that almost half the country's 1.3 billion people now live in cities, though many lack a city 'hukou', meaning they are not formally registered there and do not enjoy all the social security benefits of urban dwellers.
Over the next 20 years another 400 million rural residents are expected to move to the cities, according to state media, adding to the estimated 200 million migrant workers who already work in cafes, factories and on building sites in urban areas. Continued...