Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, December 18, 2015

Capitalism at work in China

Way back about the time the United States was founded, Adam Smith maintained that economic resources had to be flexible for greatest efficiencies. One of the key resources is labor, and flexibility of labor meant that people had to be able to learn new skills and move to where labor was most needed.

Much of China's growth in the past few decades has been facilitated by millions of peasants learning new job skills and moving to urban areas where their labor was needed.

But most of the movement was technically illegal. The authoritarian government maintained a system of residency permits (hukous) which determined where a family could live, what schools children could attend, and what health care people were eligible for.

So peasants moved to the cities, lived in migrant labor camps, left their children at home with grandparents, and made do without medical care as much as possible.

For several years Chinese leaders have mentioned the need to reform the hokou system. It's not fully functional, yet, but it seems that official change (as well as words) is in the offing.

China to ease restrictions on living in cities for millions
China will loosen its stringent regulations on urban residency to allow more people to enjoy public services such as housing, education and healthcare beginning next year.

Chinese citizens have for decades been limited in public services they can access by their household registration, known as a hukou (“who-co”). The problem is especially acute for the millions of migrant workers who are often forced to either leave their children in the countryside or place them in unregistered and often sub-standard schools in the city…

Details of the plan were not immediately released, although a statement posted on the cabinet’s official website said they would take effect from 1 January…

The move reflects the president, Xi Jinping’s, campaign to allow more citizens to take part in what is termed the “Chinese Dream” of middle-class prosperity and household security…

Along with creating a generation of “left-behind” children, the hukou system is blamed for restricting the prospects of educated young people from the countryside…

Beijing mulls relaxing residency rules for migrants
Beijing has issued a draft regulation to allow migrants to claim permanent resident permits or hukou based on a points system, local authorities said Thursday.

According to the draft, applicants should be under 45 years old, have a Beijing temporary residence permit and have paid social security premiums in Beijing for at least seven consecutive years.

Under the points system, employment, accommodation, educational background, skill level, tax payments, credit records, etc. will be converted into points. Migrants can transform their household registration status to local residence after reaching a specified amount of points…

Beijing's permanent population exceeded 20 million, about two and half times that of London and New York. The city has been challenged by a string of "urban diseases", such as air pollution and congestion.

People with Beijing hukou enjoy better educational opportunities, employment support, care for senior citizens and social welfare. The new system will allow migrants to have the chance to become a real part of the city.

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