With China's largest farming population, Henan Province has carried out a major reform to welcome the settlement of local farmers in urban areas.
In the next five years, some 25 counties including Gongyi and Yongcheng in the province will be built into medium-sized cities granting a total of one million farmers the status of urban citizens.
Li Keqiang, governor of Henan, said that the farming population settling in such cities will total 15 to 18 million over the next five years.
The government of central China's Hubei Province has abolished the regulation forbidding farmers from migrating from rural to urban areas.
Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality has issued a new regulation allowing all farmers who have lived in an urban area for one year or more with a stable income to apply to register for permanent residence in the city.
Hebei Province, another major agricultural area in China, plans to allow 10 million farmers to live in small cities in the next five years.
Ningbo, a coastal city in east China's Zhejiang Province, has canceled its limit on registered permanent residents in the city, encouraging people from other cities and the countryside to move into the city.
With the booming economic and social development over the past 20 years thanks to the country's opening up and reform policy, more and more farmers have left their land and lived in cities.
The current management regulation on registered permanent residence, which was launched in 1958, is out of date, said a local economist.
As a result, the welfare gap between farmers and urban residents has enlarged, the expert said.
The regulation separates the population in rural and urban areas, restricting rural people's immigration and residency freedom, he pointed out.
At present, there are nearly 400 million people living in cities, making a record of 30 percent urbanization rate, he said, adding that the figure is still less than the world's average urbanization rate of 50 percent.
With the country's plan to turn from agricultural giant to industrial powerful, promotion of urbanization has become urgent and is a must.
According to the Chinese government plan, more than 40 million farmers will migrate from country to urban areas in the next five years.
These farmers will be able to register for permanent residence in cities. Meanwhile, they will be provided with the equal rights in employment, welfare and social security.
Local governments are urged to implement favorable policies on taxation and economic charges for farmers working or conducting business affairs in urban areas.
(People's Daily October 31, 2001)