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Lao San Yu Village (a migrant worker village) in the southern district, Daxing. (Sean Gallagher Visuals/Sean Gallagher for The Globe and Mail)
Lao San Yu Village (a migrant worker village) in the southern district, Daxing. (Sean Gallagher Visuals/Sean Gallagher for The Globe and Mail)

China undertakes first national census in 10 years Add to ...

The head count will also reveal again how fast China is aging. One-fifth of the population is expected to be 65 or older by 2020, potentially making China the first country to grow old before it grows rich, and putting an enormous burden on those single children as their parents' generation retires. It seems inevitable that new census data will force the government - which is cash-rich but presides over a torn social security net - to consider new investments in public health care and a national pension program.

Getting those policies right, of course, relies on the army of census-takers getting the numbers right this time around. But many in Daxing say they're not sure they'll be around when the enumerators come asking their questions.

"This is an important national project," said Han Jiuren, a 49-year-old home decorator who lives in Daxing but is registered in another province. "But I might not be home that day."

Asking the basics

China's 2010 Census - short form

1. Name

2. Relation to head of household

3. Gender

4. Birth date

5. Nationality

6. Residence at time of census

7. Permanent registered address (hukou):

8. Period of time since left permanent registered (hukou) address,

9. Reason for leaving

10. Type of hukou (urban/rural)

11. Literate or illiterate?

12. Highest level of education

13. How many people stayed at current address the night of Oct. 30?

14. How many the night of Oct. 31?

15. Number of births in household in past year

16. Number of deaths in household in past year

17. Size of living area

18. Number of rooms

China's census, by the numbers

Population:

1953: 594 million

1964: 694 million

1982: 1.01 billion

1990: 1.13 billion

2000: 1.26 billion

2009 (estimate based on survey): 1.33 billion

The form:

90 per cent will get a short-form survey with 18 questions

10 per cent will get a longer-form with 45 questions

The census-takers:

5 million enumerators, or one per "census block" of 250-300 people

1 million instructors and supervisors

50 per cent are civil servants borrowed from their departments

50 per cent are being paid for their time

20 government agencies are involved

The schedule:

Field work begins Nov. 1 and lasts until Nov. 20

Processing and analyzing begins Dec. 1 and lasts until December 2011

Preliminary results will be released in April 2011

The budget:

Total cost estimated at 8 billion yuan, of which central government in Beijing has agreed to pay 1.3 billion yuan

The Great Migration:

Percentage of China's population living in cities:

1978: 18 per cent

1989: 26 per cent

1997: 32 per cent

2002: 39 per cent

2008: 46 per cent

2010: More than 50 per cent (expected)

The income gap:

Factor by which income of top 10 per cent exceeds that of bottom 10 per cent

1988: 7.3

2007: 23.0

Sources: China's National Bureau of Statistics; Xinhua news agency; The State of China Atlas, c 2005, 2008, University of California Press

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