Guangzhou faces population crisis

Guangzhou plans to limit population growth by 2020 as it grapples with increasing demand on overloaded services amid calls for a relaxation of the one-child policy by 2015.

Yesterday's Southern Metropolis News quoted Guangzhou mayor Wan Qingliang as telling a national urban planning seminar that the city was facing a severe population problem. 'Guangzhou has 10.33 million registered residents,' Wan said. 'Targets and the scale of land use are based on this number. But in reality, the actual population [including migrants] is about 15 million.'

That meant Guangzhou was stuck with shortages of land and public resources, Wan said. 'Anyone who has been a mayor will know the intensity of the problem we are facing. By 2020, Guangzhou's population will exceed 18 million if we fail to act on population control,' Wan said.

He said population growth could be restrained by reducing the number of low-skilled workers and attracting better-qualified residents.

Guangzhou's natural birth rate has been about 6.2 per cent a year for years, with population growth mainly driven by migrants from other cities and provinces, with their numbers increasing by 300,000 every year.

Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences researcher Peng Peng said the city was nearing its maximum capacity of 15 million. 'The city is facing very heavy pressure in distributing public resources among local residents and migrants from other provinces,' Peng said. 'Many government policies ... will have to be adjusted because of the large unregistered population. If it fails to do so, [it] runs the danger of missing planning goals for the next five years.'

Peng said the growing proportion of migrants posed a major challenge to the city government's efforts to distribute public resources such as education and medical care evenly.

Wan said Guangzhou would seek to attract more talented, educated and rich residents by encouraging hi-tech industries and discouraging labour-intensive ones. He said building community facilities in new areas such as Nansha would help new migrants. In September, Guangdong's family planning chief, Zhang Feng, called for the one-child policy to be loosened when the national population peaked at 1.65 billion.