Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Slowly come the changes

Although the hukou system has not discouraged many people from flocking to China's cities where there are jobs and opportunities, it might finally be changing.

Could this be the end for China’s notorious household registration system?
China is reviewing its decades-old household registration system to enable migrant workers to stay in cities as the country grapples with an ageing population and a shrinking workforce.

Sun Lijun, deputy minister of public security, said on Thursday that his ministry is considering changes in policy to make it easier for the migrant workers to become the urban residents.

But any changes to the system would not apply to congested the megacities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen that the authorities deem overpopulated, Sun said.

Under the “hukou” household registration system introduced the 1950s, Chinese people are classified as either rural or urban residents depending on where they were born.

Rural residents can enjoy certain land use rights but are not officially allowed to live in cities or have access to government services in those areas such as education and health care.

But as China’s economy developed, around 300 million rural residents migrated to cities to earn a living, putting the system under intense strain.

Now, under a national urbanisation policy, the authorities are trying to encourage about 100 million people living in the countryside to move to cities to help boost the economy.

Addressing a national symposium on social management, Sun stressed the need to come up with a new system in which household registration was based on the place in which the person spent the most time – not where they were born…

“No matter where you come from, you should be able to settle in most of China’s cities, choose the lifestyle you want, and no longer suffer such restrictions,” the site said in an editorial.

But there are many barriers to introducing such a system, according to Peking University sociology professor Lu Jiehua.

“Although the policy excludes megacities like Beijing and Shanghai, the cities that will have to take in more people will need to provide more basic public services including education, health care and housing. Lots of investment is needed,” Lu said.

Gu Shengzu, a member of the National People's Congress’s Standing Committee, has acknowledged publicly that there are major inequalities between urban and rural residents in more than 60 kinds of benefits…

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