On the one hand, this certainly is a big step for China here. It’s the first time in history for China to have an urban population larger than in the countryside. How did this change come about?
Well, let’s look at few figures to put things into perspective. When the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, a census conducted then showed that urban population made up around 10% of China’s total population. And 30 years later, in 1979, that’s when the country first introduced the "opening-up" and reform policy, the country’s urban population stood at about 19% of the total population. And now we can see how the economic reforms and the opportunities they brought have shaped the country’s demographics. Two decades on, in 2000, the percentage of urban dwellers rose to 36 percent. And that number jumped even faster over the next decade to reach today’s figure of 51%.
Urbanization is surely a sign of progress, but what ...view middle of the document...
The consensus is that urbanization is an irreversible process, so it certainly seems like the right time to start thinking about how to tackle these challenges.
A government-backed blue book unveiled Monday estimated that the country's urban population will outnumber the rural population by the end of 2011 at the current speed of urbanization.
According to China's latest nationwide census that wrapped up in 2010, China's urban population accounted for 49.68 percent of the total population. If the urban population really outnumbers the rural population, it will be a significant breaking point for China in changing its thousand-year-old farmer-dominated population structure, It will not only mean a simple alteration in the percentage figure of the urban population, but will also mean profound changes in people's lifestyles, employment, consumption and even values.
The blue book said China's millions of migrant workers had acquired increasing income growth, but more than 60 percent of them lived separately from their family members.
With a rapid rate of urbanization since China adopted an opening-up and reform policy at the end of the 1970s, millions of farmers left their rural homes to find seasonal jobs in the construction and service industries.
Estimates put the country's number of migrant workers at over 240 million people, a number roughly equal to the entire US population.
Compiled by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), the book said that about 40 percent of migrant workers had chosen to relocate their families to urban areas, while 60 percent left either their spouse or children in rural homes. Even migrant workers who have settled family members in urban areas may live in different cities than their families. Meanwhile, Chinese farmers who have not left rural areas are also seeing increasing incomes.
The book said that urban residents' disposable income per capita was 16,301 yuan (2,574 US dollars) in the first three quarters of 2011, marking a 7.8 percent jump compared with that of 2010. Rural residents' cash income per capita during the period was 5,878 yuan, marking a 13.6 percent increase that has outpaced the income increases for urban residents.