China kicks off massive once-in-decade census exercise

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Drone point aerial view of Shanghai Tower.

Shanghai, China:

Millions of enumerators began knocking on doors across China on Sunday for a once-per-decade count of the world‘s largest population, which for the first time will use mobile apps to help reduce massive numbers.

About seven million community workers and volunteers will lead the two-month data collection effort, visiting homes ranging from residential skyscrapers in downtown Shanghai to remote Tibetan mountain villages.

China conducts a census every ten years to determine population growth, movement patterns and other trends, using the results to allocate resources for education, health, transport, labor. work, elder care and other services.

The previous tally in 2010 had 1,339,724,852 people, an increase of 5.83 percent, or 73,899,804 people, which is equivalent to adding more than the population of France over 10 years.

Much of the attention on this year’s census – which is expected to take two years to fully compile – will focus on whether it indicates an increase in population following China’s easing of its old “one-child policy”.

The policy was introduced in the late 1970s to slow rapid population growth amid concerns about too many mouths to feed, but it was relaxed four years ago to allow two children due to fears about the rapid aging of Chinese society and shrinking workforce.

But the change has yet to result in a baby boom.

The national birth rate last year was the slowest since the founding of Communist-ruled China in 1949, with many Chinese now choosing smaller families amid the rising cost of living.

The government estimates that the 2020 census could update the population to 1.42 billion, an increase of 5.99%.

A research institute affiliated with real estate giant Evergrande Group released a study last week indicating the government figure was an overestimate and recommended that three children be allowed.

“If adjustments are not made, it will seriously affect national rejuvenation and the rise (of China) as a great power,” the researchers said, citing two of powerful President Xi Jinping’s stated goals.

‘Big Brother’ fears

The study sparked a heated discussion online, with many saying the real brakes on childbirth are rising costs and insufficient political support for families.

“Even a ten-child policy is useless until we create a society that supports childbirth and child rearing,” a widely “appreciated” comment said on the Chinese giant’s WeChat platform. ‘internet Tencent.

Demographic experts have estimated that it would take 15 years for the two-child policy to have a noticeable effect, as other modern factors dampen rapid growth, including increasingly empowered Chinese women delaying or avoiding it. childbirth, and the slower population growth that accompanies growing national wealth. .

Despite door-to-door visits, most citizens are expected to enter their information through a smartphone app, adding to growing concerns about privacy.

Vast amounts of Chinese economic activity and payments are handled through digital apps like WeChat and rival Alipay, offered by Alibaba affiliate Ant Group.

Many consumers accept the transfer of data about their shopping habits, travel and other personal information that results as a small price to pay for digital amenities.

But others are increasingly concerned about data privacy and security, which has worsened further this year with China’s introduction of a nationwide system of digital “health codes” that assess data. citizens on the question of whether they pose a potential threat from coronavirus and which must be proven to enter many public places.

The National Bureau of Statistics, which oversees the census, promised in May that any personal data collected in the process would be kept strictly confidential and used for purposes other than the census.

In mid-October, the government also separately unveiled a bill on the protection of personal data, which outlines severe penalties for violators.

(Except for the title, this story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)

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