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China to begin massive census effort

Associated Press / November 2, 2010

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BEIJING — China kicked off a once-a-decade census yesterday, a whirlwind 10-day head count in which 6 million census takers scrutinize apartment blocks, scour migrant areas, and scan rural villages to document massive demographic changes in the world’s most populous country. They aim to count every person.

The 2000 tally put China’s official population at 1.295 billion people, but missed migrant workers living in cities for less than six months. In the 10 years since, there has been an extensive shift in the population base as tens of millions of migrant workers have poured into urban areas looking for work.

“Wherever you are living from Nov. 1 to Nov. 10, you will be counted,’’ said Zhang Xueyuan, director of the publicity for the Beijing census committee.

It is the sixth time China has carried out a national census, but the first time it will count people where they live and not where their resident certificate, or hukou, is legally registered. The change will better track the demographic changes and find the true size of China’s giant cities, the populations of which up to now have been only estimates.

China has gone to great lengths to promote the census this year. In Beijing, giant, colorful banners flying across neighborhood gates have slogans such as: “The census is for the nation and each citizen,’’ and “Everyone participates in the census.’’

Unlike the US census, in which residents are asked to fill out and mail in forms in a yearlong undertaking, Chinese census-takers plan to speed up the process by going door-to-door asking people questions about their education, employment situation, and resident status.

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