Starting from November this year, South China's Guangdong Province will grant residence rights to professionals from outside Guangdong living there, enabling them to share the same privileges the locals enjoy.
This is good news for people working in Guangdong without permanent residence documents and will sharpen the region's competitiveness to a certain degree.
But bigger steps should be taken to reform the country's rigid household registration system.
The registration policy was introduced in 1958 to strictly limit mobility under the planned economic system. Since the country started transforming to a market economy from the late 1970s, more and more people have left their hometowns for cities to work or do business.
Problems then emerged as outsiders were denied equal access to work, education, housing and other social rights enjoyed by local residents.
Following experiments in Shenzhen, a special economic zone in Guangdong, many areas around the country have managed to work out more flexible residence policies to attract and keep talented people from different areas.
These residence policies usually enable the badly needed non-local professionals to buy cars and low-price houses, enjoy basic medical and pension insurance coverage, and send their children to State schools without additional charges.
But the applicants who get the go-ahead for residence documents still have to satisfy a certain range of qualifications. Those usually include holding a bachelor's degree or above, having a mid-level professional title or higher, or contributing significantly to local development or providing badly needed contributions in certain sectors.
In a sense, these policies are only giving to some people the privileges that should have been given equally to everyone.
There is still a long way to go to further reform the household registration system, which will not only facilitate the development of a market economy but also mark greater social progress in ensuring equal civil rights.
(People's Daily October 21, 2003)