China's population 'on track'

Posted: 3 September 2002

After conducting what was arguably the world's most ambitious census ever in November 2000, the Chinese Government has begun to release the results.

China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has reported that mainland China's population totalled 1.266 billion in 2000, an increase of 132 million over the 1990 total. While that increase exceeds the entire population of Japan (127 million in 2000), the result met the government's official goal of staying below 1.3 billion for 2000, and is considerably less than the increase measured in India's 2001 Census.

It is difficult to determine the impact of under-reporting on the 2000 census. The census indicated, for example, that Chinese household size had shrunk by half a person since 1990. But it is unclear how much of this reduction is due to the hiding of young children as opposed to falling fertility levels. Census statisticians do make adjustments to compensate for underreporting, but some Chinese demographers believe that the scope of evasion was greater in the 1990s than ever before, making the adjustment process more difficult.

China's census officials must also try to keep track of an increasingly mobile population. Estimates of the overall size of the country's migratory, or "floating," population run from 60 million to more than 100 million. Since many of these individuals move back and forth between their original home and their new residence over the course of a year, there were fears that the census would miss large portions of this group.


  • China's urban population now totals 455.94 million people, or 36.01 per cent of the population.
  • Average family size is now 3.44 people per household, as opposed to 3.96 people in 1990.
  • People aged 65 and older now account for 6.96 per cent of the population, an increase of 1.39 percentage points from 1990.
  • The illiteracy rate for those over 15 years old is 6.72 per cent, down 9.16 percentage points from the 1990 figure.

Additional statistics are available from China's National Bureau of Statistics.