Globe and Mail reports on the massive effort to count all of China’s people, including the unregistered children born outside the family planning policy limits, transient migrant workers, and others who usually slip through the cracks of official recognition in China:
More than six million people – a number almost three times the size of the People’s Liberation Army, and larger than the population of Denmark – will on Monday fan out across this country’s 31 provinces to begin China’s first national census in a decade. Though a population survey carried out at the end of last year estimated the population of the People’s Republic of China at 1.334 billion, there are far too many unknowns for that number to be considered definitive. Some demographers believe the real number of Chinese may be closer to 1.5 billion.
There are several reasons China’s government has a poor handle on the number of people it rules, but the biggest one is that the country is in the midst of the world’s biggest-ever peacetime migration. Over the past three decades, hundreds of millions of rural Chinese have flocked to the cities in search of work and better lives. Estimates of the number of migrant workers and their families range from 130 million to more than 200 million. To find the real number will mean going door-to-door in villages such as Daxing, and asking those who live here to tell the truth, even when it could have uncertain consequences.
…The numbers are imprecise because China’s hukou household registration system restricts where people can live and work, forcing migrants to live in the shadows of places such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. An unknown number – believed to be in the millions – have had second or third children in violation of the country’s once-child population control laws. While their parents are registered in the wrong place, the children often aren’t registered at all, leaving them without the necessary documentation to even attend school.
Read more about conditions in Daxing and other migrant villages via CDT.