The household registration (hukou) system should be
scrapped in three to five years so that farmers enjoy the same
status as urbanities, a government-sponsored expert group has
The proposal, which China Daily obtained yesterday,
means that millions of migrant workers in cities will get the same
social benefits in employment, education, healthcare and housing as
their urban counterparts.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), which
conducted a research on the issue along with the Australian
government, did not comment on the timetable but expressed "solid
support" for the reform.
The NDRC has listed it as "one of the key issues and priorities"
after three decades of fast economic growth.
"We are going to neutralize the hukou system to strip it of its
many social functions," NDRC Deputy Secretary General Ma Liqiang
told an international conference on balanced urban-rural
"By 2020, farmers will have equal rights and development
opportunities as urban residents," said Ma, who described the hukou
system as an "institutional barrier."
Geoff Raby, Australian ambassador to China, echoed his view.
"The institutional barriers, taking shape for decades, should be
removed," he said.
Kong Jingyuan, NDRC's department director in charge of economic
system reform, said a new registration system, based on pilot
reforms in more than 12 provinces and autonomous regions, should
replace the hukou system.
"We should terminate the social difference between the urban and
rural residents," Kong said, adding that the government will remove
barriers to facilitate a "free flow" from rural regions to
"We encourage farmers who have a place to live in cities and
have stable income to register there," Kong said.
The country's urbanization rate has hit 43 percent and about 200
million migrants are working in cities, but they are not considered
The urban-rural social and economic disparities have posed
challenges to further development and social stability.
Official statistics show that the income gap between urban and
rural residents have been expanding, from 2.57 times in 1978 to
3.28 times in 2006.
(China Daily January 23, 2008)