World’s biggest census begins in China (Lead)

November 1st, 2010 - 9:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Nov 1 (IANS) In the world’s biggest census, China Monday began counting its over one billion people with the help of more than 6.5 million officials who will visit about 400 million households in the next 10 days.

The census takers, dressed in uniforms, will visit door-to-door to collect information about everyone living and working on the mainland. The previous nationwide census conducted in 2000 recorded a population of 1.29 billion.

Anyone born before Monday gets included, but anyone born after Monday is left out until the next census in 2020, China Daily reported citing the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

About 90 percent of people will be asked to fill in an 18-column form, seeking information about their sex, ethnic group and education, while the other 10 percent, to be chosen randomly, will be asked to fill in a longer 45-question form.

Foreigners have it easier - they only have eight questions to answer.

The final census data will be made public in April 2011.

Around 700 million yuan ($103 million) of central government funds will be spent on the census, officials said.

Many people are, however, worried about their privacy, and many census takers had found in a trial run that people simply refused to open their door to them.

According to Tan Bihua, a census taker in the southern city of Guangzhou, where the drive started Oct 25 ahead of the nationwide campaign because of the 16th Asian Games, each person is responsible for about 120 to 150 households.

Tan said she had to pay eight visits to one household to get their information because they were migrant workers who had no regular work hours, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported.

In Beijing, most residents received a message on their mobile phones, asking them to take part in the exercise with cooperative spirit.

Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang asked people to cooperate with the census takers so that the statistics are accurate. He promised that any personal information collected will be kept strictly confidential.

Yang Shu, deputy director of the census office of Maizidian in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, said they have recruited volunteers with bilingual or multilingual skills. They have also translated the questionnaire into five languages, including English, French and German.

According to DPA, for the first time, the census will ignore China’s archaic system of household registration, under which every citizen’s place of residence is fixed in one locality.

Millions of long-term urban migrants are still registered in rural households and officials are concerned that many of them will try to avoid the census because they fear punishment.

A China Radio International reporter who accompanied census staff in the central city of Zhengzhou Monday said almost half of the 20 households they visited had refused to let them inside.

The agency quoted Duan Chengrong, head of the Demography Department at People’s University in Beijing, as saying that an uncooperative attitude from some respondents was “reasonable due to the growing awareness of privacy protection.”

The ruling Communist Party launched its one-child policy in the late 1970s to curb the rapid population growth of the previous 30 years.

Government experts have estimated that the population would have swelled to about 1.7 billion without the policy.

But rights groups have documented the brutal enforcement of the controversial policy by local officials in some areas of China.

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