Chengdu reforms hukou system

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Global Times, November 18, 2010
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The capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province has launched a pioneering reform of its household registration system, or hukou, that would allow tens of thousands of migrant workers living in the city to enjoy the same social benefits as their urban counterparts.

According to a new document released by the information office of the Chengdu gov-ernment Tuesday, urban and rural residents in the city will be subject to the same rules regarding their hukou, eliminating decades-old practices that have resulted in inequality based on one's hukou status.

"The aim of the reform is to ensure both urban and rural residents enjoy the same public services and social welfare benefits," Qin Daihong, deputy director of the city's coordination committee, said to the Global Times Wednesday.

The city plans to integrate its urban and rural household registration systems by 2012, allowing rural residents to register according to their actual place of residence and to update their registration if they move. The same rule would also apply to urban residents.

The new policy will also ensure that farmers do not lose the rights to their rural land after moving to urban areas.

Rural residents would be able to enjoy the same social benefits including education, health insurance, housing and employment at the place where they register.

The hukou system, which divides households into either urban or rural, was developed in the 1950s to control the flow of people. It has drawn criticism, especially in recent years, as millions of migrant workers poured into the city to live and work but were unable to enjoy the same social benefits as city dwellers.

"The reform brings respect to people's choice of movement," said Sheng Shuguang, director of the Social Security Research Center at Sun Yat-sen University.

Wang Ke, a 36-year-old migrant worker from Shuangliu county now working in Chengdu, told the Global Times that he is very pleased with the new policy.

"It is good news for my 6-year-old daughter. She is going to primary school next year and it would be good if she could go to the same school as the rest of the kids in the city," Wang said.

However, concerns have been raised that the policy might trigger a sudden overflow of people from rural to urban areas in the city.

Over 5 million people currently dwell in the city's rural areas.

Qin Daihong says that it is unlikely to happen as the difference in some basic social benefits such as healthcare between rural and urban areas in Chengdu is not that great.

"It's a complicated matter and people have to take a lot of issues into consideration, such as living costs, housing prices and personal reasons before they make any decisions," Qin said.

Chengdu began hukou reforms in 2003, and various measures aimed at loosening restrictions have brought over 2 million people into the city.

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