Migrants restore population balance

By Wang Hongyi (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-05-05 07:15
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SHANGHAI - In response to the sharp increase seen during the past decade in the migrant population living in this megacity, experts are calling for a reform of the policies used to manage population changes.

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According to the sixth national census, conducted in November last year, Shanghai now contains 23.02 million residents, who make up 1.72 percent of the mainland population. That figure was up from the year 2000, when the latest census said Shanghai was home to 1.32 percent of everyone living on the mainland.

The population statistic, which counts both those who have Shanghai hukou, or permanent residence permits, and migrants who have stayed in the city for more than six months but do not have hukou, increased by nearly 38 percent during the past decade. That means the population in Shanghai increased at a much faster rate than did the population in all of China, which rose by 5.8 percent during the same period.

Shanghai is now home to nearly 9 million migrants, making up 39 percent of the city's total residents. That population has risen by 159 percent since 2000, when 3.45 million migrants lived in the city, according to the Shanghai municipal statistics bureau.

"The city's fast economic growth and high quality of urban services draw an increasing number of people from other places to look for jobs in the city," said Ren Yuan, professor at the School of Social Development and Public Policy of Fudan University.

"The large number of migrants has actually made a great contribution to Shanghai's development and helped to curtail a labor shortage," he said. "On the other hand, the city has to cope with more difficulties resulting from the increasing population and fast changes."

Migrants restore population balance

Ren said the government should respond to the quick rise in the migrant population by adjusting its population policy and carrying out scientific urban planning.

In past years, Shanghai has slowly made itself more open to outsiders, allowing certain migrants to apply for Shanghai hukou. The increasing number of incomers has helped restore balance to the city's population, which had been becoming steadily older on average.

In future years, the city will continue to attract young migrant workers, especially those between the ages of 25 and 35. Its goal is to replenish a labor pool that has begun drying up, in part because more and more workers are reaching retirement age and in part because the birth rate in the city is low, said Xie Lingli, director of the Shanghai municipal population and family planning commission.

The commission predicts that, by 2015, the number of workers in Shanghai between the ages of 16 and 59 will drop from 9 million to 8.3 million.

"In this regard, the government should work harder for the migrant population and allow migrants to receive the same social welfare as registered residents and help them better integrate into the city," Ren Yuan said.

In addition, about 5.05 million Shanghai residents hold university degrees. According to the 2000 census, 109 out of every 1,000 Shanghai residents had held university degrees; that ratio has now risen to 220 out of every 1,000, according to the Shanghai municipal statistics bureau.

"The figure reflects the great achievement shown in the city's education work and it attempts to attract talented people from other areas," the bureau said.