Shanghai Has Largest Migrant Population in China, but Shenzhen Has the Highest Ratio
Lin Xiaozhao
DATE:  Nov 28 2017
/ SOURCE:  Yicai
Shanghai Has Largest Migrant Population in China, but Shenzhen Has the Highest Ratio Shanghai Has Largest Migrant Population in China, but Shenzhen Has the Highest Ratio

(Yicai Global) Nov. 28 – In general, economically-developed cities offer excellent public resources and employment prospects and therefore appeal strongly to the migrant population.

China's four megacities with a population of over 10 million -- Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen -- have enormous migrant populations, so how have the migrant populations grown in these cities over the years?

Yicai Global compared statistics of migrants, officially known as the 'non-locally registered population' in China, in these cities for 2015 and 2016. The findings suggest Shanghai has the largest migrant population, and Shenzhen has the highest number of migrants to total local population, while migrant numbers in Beijing and Shanghai have declined in the last couple of years, but Guangzhou and Shenzhen have maintained strong population growth in this demographic.

Shanghai has more migrants, while Shenzhen has the highest migrant proportion

Of the four first-tier cities, Shanghai has the greatest population (24.197 million) and migrant population (9.802 million). Beijing and Shenzhen have 8.075 million and 8.0632 million migrants, ranking number two and three respectively. The migrant population in Guangzhou is significantly smaller relative to the other three cities, and currently stands at 5.34 million.

Shenzhen has the highest ratio of migrant population to total population (67.7 percent), outstripping the other three first-tier cities by about 30 percent. The reason is that the city grew into a major metropolis after the introduction of economic reforms in the 1980s, so the number of local residents is relatively smaller. In fact, a considerable proportion of Shenzhen's locally-registered residents originally came from other parts of China.

The other three cities have similar migrant population proportions -- 40.51 percent (Shanghai), 38.01 percent (Guangzhou) and 37.3 percent (Beijing).

Shanghai has the largest population of locally-registered residents (14.4 million), followed by Beijing (13.63 million) and Guangzhou (8.7 million). Locally-registered residents make up approximately 60 percent of the total populations in the three cities. Household registration is a special population control and management policy in China. Holders of local household registrations are entitled to social welfare and other public benefits local governments provide.

Shenzhen's locally-registered population as a percentage of the total population is merely 32.3 percent. Only about three million of the over 10 million residents in the city have obtained the local household registration. To change this situation, the local government has relaxed household registration transfer regulations since last year, and local household registration has been granted to skilled workers and people with certain professional qualifications.

As a result, the locally-registered population rose 498,000 last year, and its share of the total local population went up 2.79 percent to 34 percent at the end of last year. The ratio will increase further as the policy deepens in future.

Migrant population peaked in Beijing and Shanghai, in contrast to rapid growth in Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Migrant population growth has declined in Beijing and Shanghai after reaching a peak in 2014.

The total number of migrants in Beijing dropped -- for the first time in many years -- by 151,000 from 8.23 million in 2015 to 81 million at the end of last year.

Shanghai's migrant population peaked at 9.96 million in 2014, and fell by nearly 150,000 in 2015 and then by another 14,500 to 9.8million as of the end of last year.

Serious issues arising from urban sprawl have prompted the Chinese government to rethink its urban development strategy. It has decided to give more opportunities and allocate more urban functions to non-first-tier cities. For example, Hangzhou in Zhejiang province was selected to host the 2016 G20 Summit and 2022 Asian Games, and the ninth summit of BRICS leaders was held in Xiamen, a coastal city in Southeast China's Fujian province.

China has some of the largest cities in the world, and one of the reasons for this phenomenon is the exceptional high concentrations of national service resources in a few cities, noted Yang Weimin, deputy head of the Office of the Central Leading Group on Finance and Economic Affairs. For example, the main cause for many urban issues in Beijing is that fact that the city has too many 'non-capital' functions. By relocating corporate headquarters, hospitals and higher education institutions from Beijing, the government will be able to solve the challenges in the capital and boost urban development in other cities.

Unlike their northern counterparts, Guangzhou's and Shenzhen's populations are still below 15 million, so they have greater potential in terms of industry and population growth. Therefore, a large number of major manufacturing projects have settled in these two cities and their environs this year.

Apart from a solid industrial foundation, the Pearl River Estuary offers favorable climate conditions and transportation facilities, noted Peng Peng, vice chairman of Guangdong Institute of Economic System Reforms. The formation of a 'one-hour living circle' in the area will help Guangdong attract qualified professionals urgently needed by the local high-end manufacturing industry, so advanced manufacturing enterprises have excellent development prospects in the Pearl River Estuary, Peng added.

By the end of last year, the permanent resident population in Guangdong hit 110 million, up 1.38 percent (1.5 million) from a year earlier, data from the provincial statistics bureau show. Guangdong was the only province that registered population growth of over one million last year. Since 2011, Guangdong's total population has grown by 4.9 million, of which more than 50 percent have been migrant workers, per public information collected by Yicai Global. Most of these migrants settled in Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Shenzhen's non-locally-registered population increased by more than 370,000 in 2015 and by about 200,000 last year, after a slide in 2013 and 2014. The number currently stands at over eight million. The actual growth is more substantial if migrants are factored in who have obtained local household registration since the government eased registration policies.

The situation has been similar in Guangzhou during recent years. The city's non-locally-registered population rose by 300,000 and 380,000 in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Furthermore, Guangzhou has also relaxed household registration restrictions, and its permanent resident population exceeded the 14-million mark for the first time last year to reach 14.0435 million, logging an increase of 542,400, the largest of the four cities.

GE Healthcare Group has selected Guangzhou to build its first biotechnology park in Asia, with the annual production value projected to be USD4 billion to USD8 billion. Construction of the park commenced on June 23.

Cisco Smart Town (Guangzhou), China's first intelligent manufacturing and cloud computing project with an estimated yearly output of CNY100 billion, was unveiled in Panyu district, Guangzhou on April 27. The project will create 70,000 to 80,000 jobs and attract 40,000 to 50,000 migrants, which will translate into substantial increases in gross domestic product (GDP) and tax revenues. The 'smart city' system will further benefit local residents for many decades to come.

Follow Yicai Global on
Keywords:   Shanghai,Beijing,Shenzhen