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China's urban dwellers nearly equal number of country folk

CHINA'S increasing urbanization means that almost as many people now live in the nation's cities as those who live in the countryside.

Urban population in the country surged to 607 million at the end of last year, putting 45.7 percent of the entire population in the cities, a social researcher reported yesterday.

The country's city dwellers increased by 148 million since 2000 and are almost equal to the rural population in the world's most populous nation, which is home to 1.3 billion people, according to Shan Jingjing of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

In the early 1980s, the rural population accounted for nearly 80 percent of the total.

The urban surge reflects economic growth and the internal movement of labor. It includes 130 million migrant workers who left their homes in the country to work in the cities, said Shan, who is also vice editor in chief of the "Blue Book of Cities in China," published yesterday by the academy.

According to the book, China has 118 megalopolises of more than 1 million people, and 39 - including Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenyang - are super metropolises of more than 2 million residents.

Urbanization had not narrowed income gaps, however.

According to the academy's report, the urban-rural income ratio averaged about five in 2008 compared with a ratio of 2.79 in 2000, said Wei Houkai, co-editor-in-chief of the book.

With rapid urbanization, China is also encountering growing challenges as a result of the global downturn, which has had a serious impact on the economy, the book warned.

"One of the challenges will be unemployment," Shan said. "According to research on 15 enterprises in five provinces, job vacancies have decreased by 5.3 percent since the end of March."

The unemployment situation will be worsened by China's huge labor pool, with an annual 15 million new job hunters and some 6 million college graduates this summer, Shan said.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture in March, there were 11 million unemployed migrant workers.

But the book also mentioned that an academy survey conducted in Jiangxi, Sichuan, Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces after this year's Lunar New Year found that the migrant return rate was not as high as media reports claimed.


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