BEIJING — China began tallying its population Monday for the first time since 2000, an arduous task likely to be made even tougher by the need to count scores of millions of migrant workers in big cities.
The government said it had sent out more than 6 million census takers to survey 400 million households, including the shantytowns and dormitories that often are home to rural men who have flooded into the cities to work in factories and on construction projects.
For the first time China will count people where they live and not where their homes are registered. This way, the government hopes to get its first accurate count of city dwellers.
The last major census a decade ago counted 1.265 billion Chinese citizens, of which 807 million were recorded as living in rural areas. The latest U.N. estimate two years ago projected that the population would reach 1.396 billion this year, and the organization's 2003 estimate projected that by this year the population would be split about equally between cities and rural areas.
The 2010 census is expected not only to better document the rural-to-urban migration but also to shed new light on a number of impending demographic shifts, including a rapid fall in the number of young people, a sharp growth in the number of elderly people and a decline in the size of the work force.
Most questions cover topics like age, gender, literacy, education and the size of families and homes. One in 10 people will be asked to fill out a more detailed 45-question survey.
For the first time, the government is counting the rising number of foreigners in the nation. The results of the census are expected to be released in April.