Mon, November 01, 2010
China > Mainland

China launches once-in-a-decade census

2010-11-01 15:32:00 GMT2010-11-01 23:32:00 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

NANJING, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- At 7 a.m., census-taker Zhao Dongling knocked on the door of 28-year-old Liu Yang in Nanjing, capital of eastern Jiangsu Province, as part of China's census held every 10 years that started Monday.

After showing her census-taker's card and examining Liu's identity card, Zhao began to ask questions such as name, age, sex, ethnic group, education, residential housing area and number of rooms, to gather the required information for the census form.

Zhao, along with more than six million other census-takers, visited every household in the neighborhood last month to grasp the basic demographic picture.

Between Nov. 1 and 10, their job is to knock on more than 400 million doors to count heads and collect demographic information. An official report based on the information gathered will be produced by the end of next April.

If residents are not at home, census-takers will leave a note at the doorstep with contact information on it. Residents can call the takers or go directly to neighborhood committees to submit their information.

Besides the basic form all residents are required to fill in, about 10 percent of respondents will be asked to complete more detailed questions on their economic and social conditions.

Working conditions, occupation, marriage and number of children, the year their building was built, number of floors, the type of cooking fuel used (natural gas, electricity, coal or firewood), access to tap water, kitchen, washroom and bath facilities are some of the 45 additional questions.

Wang Gexin, 63, responded quickly to these questions. "The neighborhood committee has explained to me clearly and I'm happy to be randomly selected to fill out the more detailed form," he said.

"The more detailed questions on housing conditions can help in the making of the country's real estate policies," Wang said.

Han Houdun, deputy director of Nanjing's national census office, said questions did not include incomes and phone numbers.

"Census takers have all received strict training and are prohibited to ask private questions such as income and phone numbers," Han said, in response to reports that in some areas swindlers disguised as census-takers were knocking on doors.

GROWING PRIVACY AWARENESS ( Though it is China's sixth national census, census-takers have found it difficult to enter some people's homes in urban areas. Complaints have ranged from takers disturbing residents' sleep to forgetting to wear shoe covers when entering homes.

Wang Bin, a 38-year-old census-taker in Shijiazhuang, capital of north China's Hebei Province, said Chinese people's growing privacy awareness posed difficulties to the traditional way of door-to-door census taking.

"They fear that we are swindlers or salesmen doing door-to-door product promotion," said Wang, mostly working early morning, noon or night when people were more probably at home.

"But most people are cooperative," she said.

Vice Premier Li Keqiang said last week that every citizen has the obligation to participate in the census, and the information gathered was vital for the country's economic and social policies.

Resident Zhang Yanke, 66, said as a big country, the census could help the government learn the demographic background and make policies, as family planning in some rural areas was still in disorder.

Ma Jiantang, director of the National Bureau of Statistics, said all the collected information would only be used for research and destroyed after the population statistics were compiled and released.

"The information must not be a reference for punishment and all census-takers and authorities should strictly comply with the duty of confidentiality."

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