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How Many People Actually Live in Shenzhen?

Let’s get down to brass tacks: how many people actually live in our fair city? Some official numbers say somewhere in the region of 6-8.9 million people, which, while a lot of people, doesn’t seem at all close to the reality.

Normally, the government would have an easier time judging the numbers of people living in the city using the Hukou system prevalent elsewhere in China, which indicates that a person is a permanent resident in a given locale. However, as Shenzhen is a city that was literally built from scratch over the past thirty years, and with ‘migrant workers’ (a loose term that could refer to anyone without a Hukou) coming and going to and from the city as well as changing apartments on a regular basis, it is nearly impossible to get an accurate fix on the number of people here.

The number of Hukou holders has increased over the years, with over 2.3 million people now holding the permanent Shenzhener status, but that still leaves a huge gap. Even if one takes all of the registered workers and adds that number to the Hukou holders, many people fall through the gaps that are the nature of fast paced business environment that is Southern China. This is evident by the reported 80,000 dangerous individuals that were ‘evicted’ from the city recently in preparation for the Universiade. Those holding residency in the city numbered 8.7 million which would effectively bring the city’s population to 11 million, where to go from there, however, gets tricky.

The Vice Mayor of Shenzhen reported that Shenzhen’s ‘native’ population is 12 million, with an additional 2 million unregistered individuals bringing the total to 14 million persons. How accurate that number is? It seems nearly impossible to know, much like trying to count the number of people in a maul in rugby, it’s difficult to see the forest through the trees.

Now what of the foreign population? Surely we make an impact in these numbers? Not really.

In 2006, the number of foreigners in Shenzhen was 13,000, reportedly making up half of the total number of foreigners in Guangdong with 2/3 of those people living in Nanshan (Shekou). Now, new numbers for Shenzhen haven’t been released in some time, but the latest numbers on Guangdong suggest that there are 60,000 foreigners in the province. If the ratio remains the same, that would suggest that there are 30,000 foreigners in the city, give or take an Australian.

How accurate do you think these numbers are? Do you think there are more or less people in Shenzhen? Foreigners?



9 Comments for “How Many People Actually Live in Shenzhen?”

  1. closer to 16mill give or take the odd american or 3

  2. I would agree with Marcus opinion above. Just comparing the congestion in public transportation (which has been significantly expanded in the last 8 – 9 years) of today with the situation at that time, add the individual traffic by privately owned cars and it gives the impression that Shenzhen is above 18 million.

    • You don’t think that may be as a result of the increased affluence of the local population?

  3. I’ll wager in at 15.3 Million – with a higher representation of migrant workers than acknowledged by officials

    so who wants to count the beans and award the closest bid :)

    I gave up on my search for accurate numbers for foreigners and people living in SZ last year – there seems no definitive source – though I daresay this article provides a good synopsis of my findings!

    • Yeah. I wouldn’t know where to begin…I mean, could you imagine working for the census bureau and having to go through a place like Xia Sha or Shui Wei door to door? It’d take years.

    • Dave, you made me laugh: “foreigners and people.” Implying…?

  4. You reckon we’re closer to 20?? It’s possible, I guess.

  5. I met the mayor in 2002 or 2003 and asked him this very question, he said it was actually 10.3 million, all included. The city is now twice as big as it was then.

  6. I’ve always gotta the feeling there are about 13 million!

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