China starts 7th census, ‘keystone’ for policies in new 5-year plan

▲Census takers in a residential community in Hohhot, capital of North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, help an elderly resident (center) register her information on an electronic device on Sunday. Photo: VCG

While many other countries and regions including the US and Europe are still struggling against the rebounding COVID-19 pandemic, China, the world’s most populous country, kicked off its 7th national census on Sunday, with full usage of electronic devices and internet based on big data for the first time.

Chinese demographers said that comprehensive, scientific and accurate population information is the keystone for making policies related to social and economic development during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25). They said that the census is a big event and major survey of China’s basic national conditions and strength.

A good census can give a full picture of the population size, structure and distribution, and the trends of demographic change, providing support for mapping out national development strategies, said Ning Jizhe, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, at a ceremony held in Beijing to promote the national census.

The census collects data including name, ID number, gender, marital status, education and profession of each Chinese citizen, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Starting on Sunday, about 7 million census takers began going door to door to document demographic information in the country.

Residents will be encouraged to use mobile terminals such as cellphones to declare personal and family information, Ning said. 

Unlike previous census counts, the colossal population survey this time is empowered with internet-based technologies such as cloud computing and online registration through QR codes.  

A census taker surnamed Liu in a residential community in Beijing’s Chaoyang district told the Global Times on Sunday that the staff had training before the process started, and they will stress the importance of the census to residents when visiting their homes. If some residents have difficulty in using electronic devices, such as the elderly, Liu said the census takers will help them in uploading information. 

The State Council, China’s cabinet, will establish a leading group to be responsible for research and decision-making of major issues during the census, said the notice.

The country has vowed that “no one will be missed out in the census.” Therefore, the full adoption of electronic devices and collection of residents’ ID numbers are the two reforms this time that will greatly improve data accuracy. 

The data will be directly uploaded to the national-level authorities in real time, which can effectively eliminate possible human interference, demographers said.

Also, the census will collect people’s ID numbers for the first time. 

Zhai Zhenwu, president of the School of Sociology and Population Studies at the Renmin University of China, also a member of the expert group of the census, told the Global Times on Sunday that it can effectively improve the quality of the census, and reduce the number of missed reports and repeat reports.

Li Xiaochao, a deputy director of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said that China is at a historical juncture of meeting the two centenary goals: We have entered a decisive stage in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and we are about to embark on a new journey to build a modern socialist country in all respects. Therefore, the 7th national census is of particular significance at such a special and important time.

The census can provide important information support for the formulation of the 14th Five-Year Plan, the promotion of high-quality development, the improvement of the population development strategy and policy system, and the advance of long-term balanced population development, Li said.

Zhai said since the 6th national census in 2010, the domestic driving force and external conditions for China’s population development have changed significantly and reached an important turning point. The country’s population growth has weakened, the fluctuation of the working-age population declined, and the degree of social aging has deepened, Zhai explained.

The census can be used to fully figure out the population of the latest development in the aspects such as quantity, structure, distribution, which is the basis for formulating and improving future policies and measures on income, consumption, education, employment, old-age care, medical care and social security, Zhai noted. 

 Almost all the policies need to be matched with population development, Zhai addressed.

“Through the census, we can draw a dynamic group image of the entire Chinese population and guide the meticulous development of elder care, and the medical and health care industries, which is the starting point for improving our life in the next 10 years,” said Zhong Nanshan, China’s top medical expert and the census promotion ambassador.

China held its first census in 1953. The 6th census in 2010 showed that the country’s population had grown from 1.27 billion in 2000 to 1.37 billion with an annual average growth rate of 0.57 percent, according to the NBS. The number of people above 60 years old stood at about 177.6 million, accounting for 13.3 percent of the total.

Newspaper headline: 7th national census kicks off

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