China will finally offer some of its millions of urban migrant workers residency status in the cities they occupy, so that for the first time these people can access public services such as healthcare, decent housing, and public education for their children.
The new rules will not apply to day laborers. Instead, they allow migrant workers to apply for residency if they are able to show steady employment, housing or education at a city institution for a period of six months.
The changes will come into effect on January 1st.
The hukou, a residence registration certificate, determines where people can access basic services provided by the state. This system was first designed by Mao Zedong in the 1950s in an effort to deter migration and increase stability, but the promise of high-paying manufacturing jobs spurred many people to leave the countryside for the factories of China’s developing cities after Reform and Opening Up, even without a social safety net to fall back on.
The largest human migration recorded in history is that of China’s “floating population,” those 260 million migrants that make up 20 percent of the population. They seek out opportunity, fortune, and a higher standard of living in cities as the government allocates more resources to urban areas.
These migrants are subject to discrimination, living as second-class citizens in the city, separated from their families, returning home only once a year to see them. An estimated 61 million children are left behind in the countryside by their migrant parents, since children cannot attend schools in districts outside their home villages.
Today more than 55.6% of China’s population live in cities and that is expected to rise to 70% by 2030 as China continues to urbanize.
It’s another step in the right direction for the new year.
By Mary DeMay