BEIJING - A survey of Beijing's population began on Sunday, as the nation launched the preliminary phase of its sixth population census.
As many as 100,000 census enumerators in Beijing will enter every home in the city to check and register residents from August 15 to September 15.
The door-to-door interviews precede the nationwide population census, which officially starts on November 1 and which is held once every 10 years.
China's last population census took place in November 2000, when the population was recorded as 1.29 billion. The first census, completed in 1963, recorded a population of just over 600 million.
The enumerators are mainly from local communities and each team of two is responsible for between 160 to 200 families, usually around 450 persons, in two communities.
"We need to work at weekends or when people are off work, from 6 pm to 8 pm, when residents are at home," said Zhang Meng, an enumerator in Donghuamen sub-district in Dongcheng district.
Zhang and her colleague, named Fang Junying, started their work on Sunday morning with six different forms designed for six types of residents.
"The most important thing is to ensure residents' information remains confidential and this is the main item in our training," said Fang Junying.
Fang said enumerators signed confidentiality agreements with the sub-district and also show a confidentiality commitment to residents before they start the interview.
Fang will compare the information she gets from the local police station with residents' household registrations in order to find out more about a family. Enumerators will need to ask questions, such as: Where do children live? Or, does the housekeeper live in the house?
"The questions can help us to understand more about residents," she said.
Enumerators are also told to maintain their manners and be with a smile at all times.
"Smiling is a necessity and sometimes it can help us to open a residents' door," Fang said.
"Different from the population censuses before, this year we will register people according to their habitats rather than registered residences," said Su Hui, deputy director of the Beijing Bureau of Statistics and also director of the Beijing sixth population census unit.
Su said that because the population has moved a lot in recent years and many registered residences have changed, it is necessary to conduct door-to-door interviews before the population census.
The door-to-door interviews mainly aim to find out the exact number of unregistered migrant workers in Beijing with their residence information registered in their hometown, officials said.
Officials said Beijing's population reached nearly 20 million by the end of 2009, with seven million migrant workers without Beijing residence, or hukou. However, studies have shown the official statistics has overlooked a large number of short-time residents in the capital.
False residence information will also be checked in the door-to-door interviews, officials said.
The census will also try to find out the number of internationals, as well as residents of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan regions living in Beijing.
During the one-month door-to-door interview period, 9,600,000 appointment letters will be sent out. The letter is translated into other languages, such as English, French and Japanese, for the 110,000 or so expats residing in the capital.
"We should support their work. Population is a big thing for our city and country," said a senior resident surnamed Yan, who lives near the densely populated Wangfujing area. His family accepted the door-to-door interview on Sunday.
Yan said he trusts the enumerators because their photos and information have already been posted in the community.