Six million census takers given the gargantuan task of counting the world’s most populous country began making their rounds yesterday, but despite the government’s efforts to accurately account for the population, two groups in particular are proving troublesome.
Households with illegal migrant workers and unregistered children born in violation of the one child policy are mostly fearful of repercussions and are generally reluctant to cooperate forcing some hapless censor workers to resort to counting beds and toothbrushes.
It’s the sixth time China has taken a national census, which happens every ten years, but this census incorporates a few firsts for China. It’s the first time it will expand the census to include Hong Kong, Macao, and foreign nationals residing in the country. China will also count people based on where they actually live, instead of where they are registered under the hukou system. But more importantly, it’s also facing the unique problems of a heavy urbanization shift that didn’t manifest itself so markedly a decade ago.
Illegal migrant workers who’ve been steadily streaming into cities are fearful of getting evicted or losing their jobs. Meanwhile, children born in violation of the one child policy, many of whom are unregistered and legally don’t exist, are determined to dodge the census to avoid hefty fines. All in all, nobody wants to ‘fess up.
The government has been trying to assuage public suspicions about the record keeping but without a great deal of success. Vice Premier, Li Keqiang, who oversees the census, has made a personal appeal for people to fulfill their “public duty” and PSAs have gone out all over the country. But even though the government has promised to do things like lower or waive the penalty fees required for those children to obtain identity cards– up to 70% off on the fines it usually charges–the masses remain largely unconvinced.
In any case, if the census workers manage to nosey their way into that information, counting toothbrushes or not, we will see the results of the tallied data come out in April of 2011.