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China starts population census

China has begun a once in 10 years census that will see six million inspectors document massive demographic changes in the world's most populous country.

The 2000 tally put China's official population at 1.295 billion people, but missed migrant workers living in cities for less than six months.

Since then there has been an extensive shift in the population base as tens of millions of migrant workers have poured into urban areas looking for work.

"Wherever you are living from November 1 to November 10, you will be counted," said Zhang Xueyuan, director of the publicity for the Beijing census committee.

It is the sixth time China has carried out a national census, but the first time it will count people where they live and not where their resident certificate, or hukou, is legally registered.

The change will better track the demographic changes and find the true size of China's giant cities, the populations of which up to now have been only estimates.

China has gone to great lengths to promote the census this year. In Beijing, giant, colourful banners have slogans such as: "The census is for the nation and each citizen," and "Everyone participates in the census".

Chinese census-takers plan to speed up the process by going door-to-door asking people questions about their education level, family history, employment situation, and resident status.

Every census-taker covers about 80 to 100 households, where about 90% have to answer 18 questions about home ownership, jobs and family members.

The other 10%, randomly selected, take an extended 45-question survey that seeks further information on reasons for moving, unemployment and other personal details.

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