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September 26, 2009

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Population density raises concerns

DESPITE the global downturn, Shanghai's economic progress continues to act as a population magnet, drawing an increasing number of foreigners and Chinese from other parts of the country and raising new challenges in residential density, a report released yesterday showed.

As a result of the trends, population planners have called on local government bodies to devote more resources to achieving a better distribution of people. Far too often, they said, relocations caused by downtown development projects and an influx of migrant workers are putting too many people in the same place.

The study was released by the Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission at a forum held to discuss population density and urban development.

Among its findings, 152,100 foreigners lived in the city for more than six months last year, nearly 19,000 more than in 2007.

They were among Shanghai's total 18.88 million residents last year, up slightly from 2007's 18.58 million.

Last year's total population also included 5.2 million migrants who lived here for more than six months. In 2007, the figure was 4.99 million.

With such a huge population, Shanghai also faces a large challenge brought on by uneven residential distribution, planners indicated.

About half of all local residents live inside the 600 square-kilometer downtown, while the rest are within the rural area that covers about 6,000 square kilometers.

"It is understandable that the government has tried to shift its population from the downtown to the suburbs, but authorities must achieve reasonable distribution in the new areas and set population control goals," said Gui Shixun of East China Normal University's population research institute.

According to Gui, the population of the Pudong New Area and Minhang, Baoshan, Songjiang and Putuo districts has doubled in the past 16 years due to development-related relocations from the downtown and the growing influx of migrants.

"If the population is not properly distributed, these districts may suffer overloading by 2020 and a second removal could be needed," Gui said.

Even with the challenges brought by more people, Shanghai is trying to encourage more births as its demographic mix ages. Among its new push for procreation, the city is encouraging additional births from couples who are only children.

In other report findings, the number of overseas visitors rose seven times in the past 18 years to 6.4 million last year, reflecting Shanghai's growing international status.


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