Population will shrink as demand eases

By Huang Shuo (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-02-01 15:20
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China's mega cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, have become attractive "gold mines" luring people from undeveloped areas in other parts of the country.

Large population inflows have caused a series of social issues - shortage of resources, pressure on the environment and unemployment.

In a bid to deal with this, the draft of Beijing's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) states that the local authorities will bring in measures to regulate population. The capital would also form a demographic frame, with proper scope and optimized structure, to achieve the sustainable development of the city, said the draft.

According to the Beijing Overall Urban Plan (2004-2020) that was approved by the State Council, Beijing's population should be less than 18 million in 2020. But the population of the city had already reached 19.72 million by the end of 2009, according to official data.

Curbing the excessively increasing population has become a big issue for the authorities in the capital.

Starting from the country's reform and opening-up to the world, Chinese people, especially people in rural areas, have gradually formed a tendency to get jobs and earn money in urban areas. Uneven development accounts for the fundamental reason for this phenomenon of the mass movement of domestic migrants.

Some experts on demography think that the excessive population issue of the city should be solved by simply setting limitations on non-locals' coming-in. That, in reality, doesn't work as long as big cities continue the extensive development mode over relying on the growth of work forces.

Many mega cities in some developed countries experiencing economic booms are not bound to meet the challenge of an undue mass increase in demography.

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Obviously, we can easily find out that Beijing's weakness in economic development is unduly dependant on labor forces. This is unsustainable on one hand, resulting in a fast-growing population. On the other hand, it triggers the risk of shortages in water, energy and other necessary resources. The cost is high.

The upgrading and updating of the industrial structure of Beijing is a must to effectively lead and guide people's decisions on where they chose to live and work.

It is not sensible to simply resort to strict administrative measures, such as the ones in the past before the reform and opening-up.

The solutions above conform to rules of economic and social development and follow the laws of nature. The government of Shunyi district in Beijing plays a pioneering role in taking action to adjust industrial structure and reasonably regulate employment chances on the demand of a floating population.

The annual growth rate of the shifting population in the district accounted for merely 8.2 percent from 2004 to 2009.

The Beijing municipal government has worked out plans to develop high-tech industries and gradually phase out the low-end ones, which require a large workforce. This is the right step in easing the population pressure.