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Unequal treatment provokes request to authority
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The current household registration system also penalizes incomers when job-hunting. Before working as a computer programmer, Su Qi hoped to be a taxi driver. But she failed to get a license because a Beijing Hukou is required to become a taxi driver.

Job opportunities in government departments are also inaccessible to people without permanent household registration in Beijing, according to local recruitment regulations for civil servants. Li and Hu maintained that the recruitment of civil servants linked to household registration was not reasonable, and infringed the relevant national regulations.

"It is true that government departments have made some effort to provide equal treatment for non-local residents," said Li. He referred to the Work and Residence Certificate, which is also called Beijing Green Card, issued to incomers with the required qualifications.

Holders of the green card can enjoy the same rights as Beijing natives in terms of house buying and children's education. But related problems remain.

Reform of the household registration system

There are almost 4 million elderly Beijing residents who are economically inactive, while around 6-7 million immigrants are young or middle-aged people who can make their own living. Analysis suggests that the incomers contribute one third of Beijing's GDP, but their contribution to GDP is not matched by their share of benefits.

Take Su Qi for example. According to Beijing regulations, allowances like traffic subsidy, fuel subsidy etc. are all added to her 5,000 yuan month salary for tax calculation purposes. As a result, each month she has to pay 370 yuan in income tax. She also has to pay tax on any additional income in both cash and kind. Su Qi does not understand why she should pay income tax and sales taxes like any Beijing native, but does not enjoy equal welfare benefits. Completing her registration form as an itinerant worker, Su Qi also experienced discrimination when she was investigated for any possible involvement in illegal activities such as hawking obscene CDs.

To reform the household registration system, Hu suggests separating its registration function from the attached welfare rights, and setting up a profit incentive system. Li proposes that each person should apply for a Household Registration and Social Security Card containing their personal information that can be internet-linked and kept secure by the government. The card could be a means of reference for participation in welfare benefits such as public education and medical care.

Ten years – a watershed

Among the floating population of Beijing, 90 percent have been here for more than six months, and 50 percent for more than five years. The average length of stay is 6 years. Nearly 60 percent of the newborn in Beijing are from immigrant families.

Many incomers like Su Qi felt that the longer you live in Beijing, the more determined you become. As lifestyle stabilizes, the desire for permanent residence grows stronger.

According to Li and Hu, residency should fall into three categories as follows:

1. Short-term residence (6 months-3 years): Incomers should enjoy some of the rights of Beijing residents;

2. Long-term residence (3-10 years): Incomers should enjoy further rights;

3. Permanent residence (over 10 years): Incomers should be recognized as permanent residents and enjoy full civic rights.

Li also suggested that a modern city should be open, and provide a fair system for the protection of all its residents.

"I love Beijing, and I hope Beijing can love me back," said Su Qi.

(China.org.cn September 17, 2008)

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