We all know that China is the world’s most populous country but when we ask how many people are actually in China, even government officials in China have a hard time answering. So what does China do? China is currently experiencing a once in a decade census where for two weeks, 6 million census workers are knocking on each and every door asking for household information. But with an estimated 1.3347 billion people and counting, it’s not an easy task. For the census workers, by far the largest challenge will be counting and obtaining the information of the countrie’s migrant workers. 2009 data suggests an estimated 211 million migrant workers in all of China. Compassion for Migrant Children‘s data shows that about one-third of the population in Beijing are migrant workers.
How is this problematic? Before this year, the census was carried out depending on the individual’s hukou, household registration at birth. But starting this year, census is now based on where you now reside. But most migrant workers who come to urban cities like Beijing for higher wages don’t have the official capacity to reside in Beijing lacking proper paper work which is hard to obtain. Without proper documentation, migrant workers and their family members are denied access from public education and basic healthcare in Beijing. One could say that the backbone of rapid urbanization in China are the migrant worker’s hard labor. But with no proper documentation and some families illegally having more than one child, migrant worker’s families face a hard decision as census workers are coming around knocking door to door. If caught with having more than one child, they will be fined and perhaps even be deported back to their home towns.
Even in my apartment building I felt suspicious that the non-Beijing accented workers are always going to the 14th floor of my building. With ever-rising housing costs, I found out that 20-30 migrant workers were sharing a 2 bedroom apartment. With this current reality of migrant workers it will be interesting to see how the census turns out as the counting closes in a week.
Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at gokatayama.com.