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UPDATED: August 11, 2014 NO. 33, AUGUST 14, 2014
Ending Urban-Rural Dichotomy
China unveils new guidelines on household registration reform
By Wang Hairong

RURAL MEDICAL SERVICE: Xie Yuhong, a doctor in a village in Shuishi Township, Qianjiang District of Chongqing, examines a patient on June 14. Since 2013, 16 village clinics have been added to the district (YANG MIN)

Students without a Beijing hukou cannot take the college admission examination in the city or be admitted into universities according to the same selection criteria as local students. A person without a Beijing hukou needs to be employed in Beijing and pay social security tax for at least five years before he or she is eligible to buy a house in Beijing.

Xinhua News Agency found that rural-urban disparity still exists in 33 public services and benefit payments, including education, housing, pension, and even in compensation for traffic accidents.

Although the guidelines state that citizens will no longer be classified as rural or urban under the household registration system, they do not announce immediate eliminations of the disparity in any of the aforementioned 33 items.

Differentiated policies

According to the guidelines, different policies will be applied in different cities. The Central Government will lift household restrictions in towns and small cities, gradually ease restrictions in medium-sized cities, and set reasonable thresholds for settling in big cities, while strictly controlling the population in the country's megacities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

In small cities and towns, "Anyone who has a legal residence can register for permanent residence, even temporary tenants," Huang said.

Medium cities with populations between half a million to 1 million can choose to have no threshold at all depending on their carrying capacity, according to the guidelines.

Large cities with a population between 1 million and 5 million can set reasonable threshold, such as requiring hukou applicants to have a legal and stable job, a legal and fixed domicile and to have made social security payments for a certain period but no more than five years.

Li Pumin, Secretary General of the National Development and Reform Commission, recently said that more than half of China's migrant workers are located in county and prefecture-level cities, so it is important to improve transportation infrastructure and boost industry growth in these cities so as to increase their accessibility and create more jobs for migrant workers.

In megacities, migrant population grows by almost half a million every year on average, creating enormous pressures, according to Huang.

Currently, Beijing has an annual maximum hukou limit. The majority of the quota goes to fresh university graduates hired by qualified employers, such as government departments, public institutions and large firms. Now, the city admits about 10,000 new graduates every year, according to the Beijing Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security. Migrant workers can rarely get hukou, expect for when there is special authorization by the government.

Li Gaofeng, a clerk in the migrant population management committee of Balizhuang Neighborhood, Chaoyang District, is one of the few lucky migrant workers to get a Beijing hukou. He was honored as a model worker by the Beijing Municipal Government and accepted as a registered permanent resident this April.

In 2001, Li came to Beijing with his wife from his hometown of Fugou County, Henan Province. Over the years, he has worked a number of jobs, including as a postman and janitor. He also has a strong record of volunteer work, such as removing garbage from rivers.

According to the guidelines, megacities with more than 5 million residents will introduce a point system to screen hukou applicants. Such a system has already been piloted in the megacities of Tianjin and Shanghai, as well as some cities in Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces. Beijing is also planning to introduce a similar framework, Huang said.

The point system was introduced in Guangdong in 2010. Under the system, an applicant scoring above 60 points out of 100 is eligible for a Guangdong hukou. The main criteria include education, skills, social insurance payment and contributions to society. Points will be deducted if an applicant has a criminal record.

Two years after the point system was implemented, 288,000 migrants and their 408,000 family members have received a hukou for one of Guangdong's towns and cities, which accounts for 2 percent of the total migrant population in the province, said Han Jun, Deputy Director of the Development Research Center of the State Council.

The point system puts a heavy emphasis on an applicants' education, while Guangzhou plans to revise its system to give more weight to social security payments, according to Beijing Evening News.

The paper said that in Guangzhou, the competition for hukou is fierce. Meeting the threshold does not guarantee that an applicant will get a hukou, as only 3,000 are available a year.

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