On the July 30th, China’s State council announced a new round of household registration reform, aka ‘hukou’ reform, aimed at abolishing the rural-town divide. The Chinese government hopes to move a further 100 million rural residents into urban areas by 2020. (See previous chiecon post)
21st Century Business Herald reports that some provinces have already started to abolish the hukou system, specifically no longer classifying residents as rural, or non-rural. Last week a resident in Nanchang, Jiangxi province changed his residence status from ‘non-rural’ to simply ‘resident’. For him there’s no real change, as currently property restrictions prevent him buying a second house, so he still cannot purchase a home in the countryside. However he said the reform “should be of more benefit to rural residents”.
On August 12th, Pingyang County in Zhejiang province also removed the old hukou classification, with the additional aim to merge the two rural and non-rural social insurance systems into one. This is in line with the government’s desire to ensure residents enjoy more equal access to public services in urban areas. Yet in the case of Pingyang, the changes will apply to those residents who can meet certain conditions, such as officially registered stable work or residency.
It should be no surprise that Pingyang County is one of the first to push through this round of hukou reform. This style of conditional hukou reform to promote urbanisation plans, was proposed in one of Xi Jinping’s 习近平 PhD dissertation papers thirteen years ago, and later championed by the current Chairman when he held power in Zhejiang province.
Zhang Chewei 张车伟, CASS Population Institute Deputy Head, said in an online government discussion, that one of the aims of this round of hukou reform, is to establish a basic population management system, bringing China in line with a similar approach adopted in developed countries. He said that “Going forward, we need to detach public and social policies that rely on the hukou system, allowing the hukou system in itself to function as a tool for population and society management”.
However the report notes that abolishing the hukou system would be harder to implement as quickly in the larger cities. This is because the better policies and public services of large cities attract many rural residents. For example, Beijing’s population of 20 million people already has 8 million migrants, which means less new Beijing hukous can be made available to migrants. Therefore in order to solve the problems associated with social insurance, and access to public services, a point’s based system should be adopted.
Such a point’s based system is already in place for qualified migrants in China’s largest cities to obtain a non-rural hukou, but generally the requirements are high: Own a property, university graduate, have worked and paid tax in the city for at least six years and so on. This excludes many migrants; hence the black-market price of tier one city hukous can sell for up to 20,000 US dollars.
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