China’s Demographic History and Future Challenges

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Science  29 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6042, pp. 581-587
DOI: 10.1126/science.1209396

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On 28 April 2011, China’s state statistics bureau released its first report on the country’s 2010 population census. The report states that the total population of mainland China reached 1.3397 billion in 2010, with an annual average population growth rate of 0.57% during the previous 10 years. The share of the total population aged 0 to 14 declined from 22.9% in 2000 to 16.6% in 2010, whereas the proportion aged 65 and above grew from 7.0% to 8.9% during the same period. This indicates that China’s population is aging rapidly. The report also shows that China is urbanizing, with nearly half of the population—665.57 million people, or 49.7%—living in urban areas, an increase of 13 percentage points over the 2000 figure. Moreover, about 260 million Chinese people are living away from where they are formally registered, and the overwhelming majority of them (about 220 million) are rural migrants living and working in urban areas but without formal urban household registration status. China is at a demographic turning point: It is changing from an agricultural society into an urban one, from a young society to an old one, and from a society attached to the land to one that is very much on the move.

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