Shanghai's population may top 23 million

Shanghai, Feb 23 (IANS) The population in Shanghai, one of the major economic powerhouses of China, might have reached 23 million, far exceeding the earlier estimates of 20 million, a demographer has said.

Experts have urged the Shanghai authorities to undertake scientific urban planning in response to the quick rise in the city's migrant population, China Daily reported Tuesday.

Shanghai has an officially registered population of 14 million, in addition to nine million migrants, said Ding Jinhong, director of East China Normal University's School of Social Development. He said the estimate is based on the most recent national census, which began in November. The official results will be announced in April.

Of the migrants included in the survey, about two million were in the city for a short stay, while seven million others lived here for more than six months, he said.

During the past decade, the city's population density rose from 2,588 people per square kilometer in 2000 to 3,600 per square kilometer in 2010, according to media reports.

Wang Zhixiong, head of the local statistics bureau, said Shanghai witnessed much faster population growth than Beijing, another densely populated city.

Experts said Shanghai should make population management a top priority, or else risk losing its capacity for steady development.

'The influx of migrants made a great contribution to the city's development,' he said. 'But it also challenged the city's limited resources and space,' said Ren Yuan, professor of Fudan University's School of Social Development and Public Policy.

'The continual growing population overloads the city's public services. Housing, education, health and other public services will face even more pressure,' he added.

Ren stressed that the current system for registering households, in which permanent residence permits called hukou are issued, was an obstacle to the city's development. In many cases, he said, prevented migrants from enjoying the benefits of the city's public services.

The government should adjust the hukou system and try to find rational ways to provide more quality services to migrants, he said.