The State Council on Wednesday released a proposal to overhaul China’s household registration system or hukou, and allow about 100 million people without urban permits to settle in towns and cities by 2020.
However, Hu Xingdou, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology and an expert in hukou issues, worries that local authorities may take advantage of the new scheme to illegaly grab farmlands from rural residents.
Since the 1950s, when China was largely a planned economy, mainland people have been classified as either rural or urban hukou holders under the household registration system.
But since the late 1970s, when the country started opening up, hundreds of millions of rural hukou holders have been moving into cities, but they have not been able to avail themselves of social welfare and other state benefits because of their residency permits.
In recent years, urban residents have come to envy their rural counterparts who can receive huge compensation if authorities acquire their land.
The new policy will also remove the limits on hukou registration in townships and small cities, relax restrictions on medium-sized cities and set reasonable thresholds for people to get a hukou in big cities. The cabinet, however, stressed that the population in cities with population of more than five million should be strictly controlled.
In a report on Thursday, HSBC estimated that surplus labor in the rural areas will still be able to sustain an annual migration of around 10 million residents to towns and cities in the next decade.
Hu said a key step in the reform is to make sure all residents are treated equally after the new policy is enacted, Sina.com reported on Thursday.
As part of the reform, all citizens will be treated equally and given the same access to public services and welfare regardless of their residency permit.
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