Shenzhen, Guangdong province, will aim to maintain its talent demographic and optimize its population structure as the city pushes forward with innovation to attract young, high-quality workers.
According to the data released by the Shenzhen bureau of statistics earlier this week, the city recorded 17.66 million permanent residents in 2022, 19,800 fewer than a year earlier.
It was the first decline in more than 40 years since Shenzhen was founded in 1979, independent demographer He Yafu said.
The decline was mostly the result of a decrease in the number of migrant workers. There were 11.83 million such workers in the city last year, 290,000 fewer than in 2021.
The city had 5.83 million permanent residents with local household registrations, or hukou, last year, an increase of 270,000 from 2021.
He attributed Shenzhen's population decline to two reasons — demand for employment in some industries contracted due to the COVID-19 epidemic, resulting in migrant workers returning to their hometowns, and Shenzhen tightened its household registration rules in 2021, raising the threshold for people who want to settle down in the city.
Wang Mei, director of the public policy and social governance research center at Shenzhen-based think tank China Development Institute, said the slight population decrease for such a major city as Shenzhen does not indicate a problem.
"Shenzhen has maintained its talent demographic over the years, with the average age of its population only 33 years old or so and its working population accounting for nearly 80 percent of its permanent resident population," Wang said.
When a city's development enters a certain stage, there will be fluctuations in population because of adjustments in demographic structure, she noted.
"As a city known for innovative industries, Shenzhen will be able to attract more young, high-quality talent. The city is expected to see stable and low-paced growth in its population in the coming years, along with continued optimization of its demographic structure."
Wang highlighted the importance of improving public services, including housing, education and healthcare, to achieve high-quality development of the population.
Huang Manli, a postgraduate student at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said, "Although I am willing to live and work in Shenzhen after graduation given its livable environment, favorable talent policies and abundant job opportunities, I am also concerned about its high cost of living and housing prices.
"I hope that more policies and measures targeting young talent can be rolled out in Shenzhen to ease their burden so that more will come and settle down there."
Previously a small fishing village, Shenzhen saw its economy boom over the past few decades, with its GDP growing from 196 million yuan ($28.3 million) in 1979 to 3.24 trillion yuan in 2022.