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Proposal to Overhaul Chinese Household Registration System

Proposal to Overhaul Chinese Household Registration System

Posted August. 15, 2002 22:24,   


Chinese official communist paper Chinese daily is getting attention by arguing for the overhaul of the Chinese Household Registration System, which has been criticized as a modern version of caste.

Chinese Daily in its special report run as an editorial stressed on August 14, 2002, “The Household Registration System does not square with rational arrangement of human resources and Chinese need for economic and social development. It should be overhauled since it hinders the public’s free movement and exercise of their political freedom.”

The System was authorized by the Household Registration Ordinance of 1958, strictly prohibiting population movement from rural to urban areas. It is a unique system of China, but has been at the center of many social problems as the large portion of rural population has moved into cities after China adopted the market economy.

▽ Need for Overhaul = Chinese Daily pointed out, “According to the government statistics, 120 million people have moved nationwide. But 50 million of them have lived in cities with temporary residence permits. Since the market economy has settled deep down into our daily life, reasonable migration of people can no longer be deterred by law.”

It also stressed, “Following the Household Registration Ordinance, the Constitution revised in 1975 prohibited the free flow of people. In addition, two revisions of the Constitution failed to guarantee people’s rights to free movement. The prohibition is against the UN Civil Rights Convention, which China ratified in 1988. Under the Convention, people should have had a right to free movement.”

Chinese Daily also reported, “If a person is registered in a rural area, he is not entitled to many welfare benefits such as employment, education, medical insurance, unemployed and retirement insurance, and housing. The rapid economic development has attracted a lot of rural workers into cities. But we could easily find absurd phenomena around us. For example, the children of the workers cannot even go to school.”

Especially, the System has been sharply criticized as a new caste. Under the System, for example, children must inherit the registration of their parents. It is the same even when their mother marries an urban man and gives birth to them. They still have to inherit their mother’s registration as a rural resident.

▽ Consequences form abolishing the system = China introduced the System in the process of achieving rapid industrialization after the Communist Revolution. The System was coupled with a policy that maximized the capital for industrialization by artificially lowering the price of produce and raising products. Without the Household Registration System, many farmers would have migrated into cities looking for more income. If that had happened, Chinese government would have spent huge amount of money earmarked for industrialization on building up infrastructure and providing welfare in cities.

But the Chinese government is seriously pondering over the possible consequences from immediate abolishment of the system. Once the System is abolished, it will accelerate the migration of farmers into cities. Therefore, the social stability will be threatened and population will pack the East Coastal areas such as Beijing and Shanghai, making it impossible to develop various areas equally as well as the rural areas.

Due to these problems, Chinese Daily suggested, “It should be considered to give only people with stable residence and job the opportunity to register in accordance with their current domicile.”