Symposium 2001/30

11 July 2001


                                                                   English only


Symposium on Global Review of 2000 Round of

Population and Housing Censuses: 

Mid-Decade Assessment and Future Prospects

Statistics Division

Department of Economic and Social Affairs

United Nations Secretariat

New York, 7-10 August 2001









Statement from China *



A. Introduction. 1

B. The 2000 population census of China. 1

C. Conclusion. 4


A. Introduction

1.                  China has conducted five population censuses since 1949. The enumeration of the fifth population census, conducted as of 1 November 2000, has been finished, and the major figures based on manual tabulation have been published. Data capture and data processing of the 2000 census are proceeding at the present time.

2.                  As a great survey of national conditions and power, the main purpose of the population census is to provide reliable and detailed information to meet the demands of government, business and public society. The first four population censuses of China were narrowly focused on this basic purpose, as well as on considering the particular social-economic situation. Census results played an important role as a basis for formulating policies.

3.                  Many successful experiences have been gained through the past four population censuses. For example, China has no permanent organization in charge of the population census. Authoritative leading agencies were set up by governments at different levels when each census was conducted. This practice has shown that such a form of organization is effective and necessary for the population census in China.

B. The 2000 population census of China

4.                   For the 2000 census, the census leading agencies were also set up at different levels, consisting of members of statistics, planning, financial, public security, propaganda, civil affairs and family planning agencies. These agencies cooperated closely in all aspects of the census—from determining census items, raising funds, recruiting enumerators and mobilizing public to disseminating the census results.

5.                  The past successes can no doubt be taken as the basis of China’s 2000 census, but it is impossible to carry out a census without making changes, since the social-economic situation and population status have changed, and the requirements of the government and the public with regard to census data have also changed. In addition, the 2000 census was confronted with some new disadvantages. With the establishment and development of a market economy, the floating population increased to a great extent, which made it more difficult to cover all persons in the census. The number of people whose current residence and household registration are inconsistent, or who have no household registration at all, has increased. Thus, the household registration cannot be taken entirely as the basis for conducting the population census, as was done in earlier censuses.

6.                  The need to protect individual privacy has been enhanced, and people have become disgusted with the business surveys frequently conducted. As a result, the cooperation of citizens with surveys and the census has been weakened in recent years. Under such circumstances, some new changes were introduced in the 2000 census.

1. New items in the census questionnaire

7.                  For the 2000 population census of China, new items were added to meet new demands. Past censuses generally contained only a few items and usually stressed the individual characteristics of the population. Such census items are no longer sufficient to meet various demands that have emerged with social-economic development. After a balanced consideration of many elements, such as requirements from different parties, respondents’ understanding and cooperation, costs and so forth, the census items were revised and extended in the 2000 census. Compared with the 1990 population census, the new items mainly include birthplace, duration of residence, hours worked during the last week, source of income and all items about housing. It is one of the characteristics of the 2000 census that items about housing were added.

2. Change in census date

8.                  During the past four censuses of China, the census reference time was midnight on 1 July. In the 2000 census, the reference date was changed to 1 November. During November, the short-term floating population is smaller, most people are staying at their usual place of residence, and the climate is also more suitable for census enumeration. Such a change is beneficial to guarantee census success.

3. Time and space standards adjusted

9.                  As a result of the active development of the market economy, the residential place of people changes more and more frequently. Therefore, it was necessary to adjust the standards for permanent residents. The time standard for permanent residents was reduced from one year to six months to reflect such changes. Similarly, the space standard for permanent residents was also reduced, from county (city) to township (street) so as to reflect the more frequent movement of the population.

4. Two types of questionnaires introduced

10.              For the 2000 population census, both short and long forms were used. There are 62 items in the census of China. If every person is enumerated with all the items, the workload of enumerators will become much heavier, and the financial and material input will obviously also increase. To solve this problem, short and long forms were introduced. For most of the population, the short form, which consisted only of basic items, was used. However, 10 per cent of households were selected to fill in the long questionnaire for all 62 items. As this is the first time this technique has been used in China, detailed rules and instructions were developed for many issues, such as the selection of the sample, calculation of sampling errors and field operations, in order to secure the success of this new method.

5. New technology for data capture

11.              For the 1982 and 1990 censuses of China, keyboard data entry was used. As the cost of labour has increased in recent years and governmental departments and the public hope to get census results within a short period, imaging technology was used for data capture in the 2000 population census. More than 400 scanners were distributed in 340 data capture centres located in prefectures and cities. The questionnaire forms are scanned and characters are recognized by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. The images of questionnaires are also stored as archives. Since it is the first time that the OCR method has been used in China’s population census, great attention has been paid to the quality of paper and the accuracy of printing of the questionnaires. Measures of quality control and standardization were taken to ensure that enumerators filled in the questionnaires properly. The work of data capture is being carried out steadily now, and the OCR method has proved to be successful in China’s 2000 census.

6. Processing centres established

12.              Thirty-two data processing centres have been established for census data tabulation. They are located at the national level census office and in 31 provincial-level census offices. Individual census data will be transferred from data capture centres at prefecture levels to the provincial processing centres to establish a census database and produce detailed tabulations. The national processing centre will aggregate all the individual census records to establish a micro-database and produce detailed tabulations.

7. Data dissemination

13.              The extensive utilization of census results is one sign that indicates the success of the census. In the past, census data were normally disseminated as printed publications. Along with the development of information techniques and the growth of the requirements of a market economy, the traditional ways of data publication are insufficient. During the 2000 census of China, the paper-printed publications will be improved. Aggregated data and data required by the public will be printed and published in a way that combines figures, pictures and articles and is easy to understand. The detailed census data, including tabulations, macrodata, microdata and data combined with geographic information, will be stored in magnetic and optical media, for publication or limited distribution. Census data will also be provided to general users through the Internet.

C. Conclusion

14.              In short, the 2000 population census of China is a census that combines China’s traditional methods and advanced international practices. Successful experiences of past censuses were retained, census items were added or revised and related methods and techniques were improved or updated in the light of new social-economic conditions.

*       This document was reproduced without formal editing.  National Bureau of Statistics, China. The views expressed in the paper are those of the author and do not imply the expression of any opinion on the part of the United Nations Secretariat