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May 2001, Volume 8, Number 5

China Census, Hong Kong IT, Taiwan

Census. China's November 2000 census found 1,265,830,000 people, up by 132 million since 1990. Taiwan has 22 million residents; Hong Kong, seven million; and Macau, 440,000.

China is rapidly urbanizing and aging. About 36 percent of Chinese now live in cities, and 64 percent live outside cities. China expects 800 million urban residents by 2020, and is rapidly building more cities; 400 are planned by 2020. Sichuan, China's most populous province with more than 100 million people, is developing nine new cities by 2010 - each for more than one million people.

About seven percent of Chinese residents,100 million people, are over 65; there are expected to be 400 million over-65-year olds by 2050. The sex ratio continues to change in favor of boys. In 1990, there were 111 boys born for every 100 girls. In 1999, there were 117 boys born for every 100 girls.

Low rural incomes and high farm taxes are encouraging rural-urban migration. In an April 20, 2001 article, the New York Times described the tensions in rural China as follows: "in villages across central and southern China incomes have stagnated, most young people migrate to coastal cities to perform menial jobs, and local governments are so short of money that officials and teachers often go unpaid for months at a time." However, efforts to collect local taxes have led to deadly conflicts: two farmers protesting high taxes were killed April 15, 2001 in Yuntang, a village in the lower Yangtze basin in Jiangxi Province.

Taxes in Yuntang were increased to $36 for each one-seventh acre of crop land. The average farmer has about one-half acre, and thus owes $126 in taxes. After a tax reform in 1994-95, the central government took a greater percent of local taxes, leaving counties and townships to fend for themselves. Thus, local governments are forced to raise taxes to provide local services.

Hong Kong IT. The Hong Kong government is trying to attract more high-tech workers, and has lowered the educational requirements for financial and information technology workers from the mainland. Quotas have been removed, and mainland workers will be able to change Hong Kong employers after one year in Hong Kong. After seven years of employment, they can obtain a right of abode in Hong Kong.

Singapore is also recruiting IT workers. Says the minister of communications, Yeo Ceow Tong, "We are in a global war for talent." The Singapore government has proposed visa-free travel within Asia for IT professionals. The median age of Singapore's work force has increased from 32.8 in 1999 to 37.4 over the past decade and the demand for higher skilled labor has grown from one in five in 1995 to one in three in 1999.

Taiwan. In May 2000, the number of foreigners hit a record 302,157, including 76,000 household helpers. The newly elected government at that time pledged to reduce foreign worker employment.

In April 2001, Taiwan's Council of Labor Affairs announced plans to reduce the employment of foreign workers by 15,000 a year.

Erik Eckholm, "Chinese Raid Defiant Village, Killing 2, Amid Rural Unrest," New York Times, April 20, 2001. John Thornhill, "Courting the workforce of the future," Financial Times, April 11, 2001. Kitty Mckinsey, "Tug of war for IT talent," Wall Street Journal, April 11, 2001. "CLA to promote reasonable brokerage fees for foreign workers," Taiwan Economic News, April 9, 2001. Richard McGregor, "The world's biggest census reveals significant changes in population patterns," Financial Times, March 31, 2001.