01/21/2012, 00.00
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Historic shift: more people in China’s cities than countryside

51.3% of the population living in urban areas, amounting to 690.8 million individuals. An increase of 14%. in a decade, The data favoured by the economic boom and new employment opportunities. Emigration due to internal imbalances and environmental damage. Chinese scholars: protect the weaker sections of society.
Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - For the first time in history, in China the number of the inhabitants of towns and cities has exceeded that of the agricultural areas. New employment opportunities and better job opportunities have encouraged the exodus to urban centers, while causing serious repercussions for the environment. According to data provided by the National Statistics Bureau (NBS), referring to 2011, today there are 690.8 million people living in the cities, amounting to 51.3% of the total population of over one billion and 300 million. Among the 21 million Chinese who last year left the countryside many are migrant workers. 656.6 million Chinese live in rural areas, often in difficult conditions and extreme poverty -.

The news of the demographic shift between the urban and rural population in China is not a surprise for analysts and commentators. In April 2011, when Beijing released the first results of the study - which is conducted every 10 years – a significant turnaround compared to the past was already evident, with a decided increase of the inhabitants of cities and towns. In the last decade China's urban population - which is twice the total U.S. population - grew by 14%, due to the displacement of entire masses of workers to firms and industries in coastal areas, the most developed of the country.

Also for the first time, the census considers migrant workers as inhabitants of the cities in which they reside in all respects, in the past, however, they were considered an integral part of the country of origin where they were registered as resident. Chang Jian, an economist at Barclays Capital in Hong Kong, confirms that "urbanization is a key driver" for China's growth which has not yet exhausted its driving force that "could go on for another 20 years."

Meanwhile, experts and scholars have called for new policies to counter the radical change in population and the rise of the city dwellers, also ensuring migrant workers social welfare, health and access to education. "A priority for the government - said Zheng Zhenzhen, a professor at the Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing - is to take care of the weakest elements of the urban population."
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