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China's household registration system, or "hukou" system, divides the population into rural and non-rural residents. Qu Shang reports from Guangdong Province on a successful reform model in the city of Zhongshan.
Cong Yongsheng works in Zhongshan City of Guangdong (Province) in south China. He moved to Zhongshan from his hometown in Hebei Province, in the country's north, 10 years ago. Cong says he has adapted to living and working here, but was disappointed he initially couldn't get equal opportunities like native residents.
Cong Yongsheng, migrant worker, Zhongshan, said, "The city of Zhongshan is beautiful, and I like it here. But, when I first arrived, I wished I could enjoy equal treatment like other local residents. Thanks to the new reform, I can now apply, and hopefully get more social welfare. That means my 4-year old son can go to a public school with other children. Now, I feel more stable, my sense of home has been greatly strengthened."
This new policy of household registration is called an "Integrating System." It was introduced in 2007.
There are about 1,180 thousand migrant workers in Zhongshan City, accounting for 45% of the total population. They all contribute to the economic development of the city. So far, 2,139 migrant workers have successfully applied to be part of the new system.
Chen Shunbao, deputy director of Floating Population Management Administration, said, "We have specific criteria to investigate applicants, and then they are graded. For example, academic level, working experience, and personal credits are included. If they reach the standard, they can apply for the hukou system. It has had a great response. Many talented people have decided to stay in Zhongshan because of this policy, which gives great impetus to our development."
The reform is still brand new, but it's proving to be a great success. There is still a continual debate on how the reform policies can be further developed.
Wang Zechu, councilor of Guangdong Provincial Government, said, "The current household registration system divides the population into rural households and non-rural households, and individual interests and rights, such as education, health care, housing, and employment, are linked to the household registration. Actually, the essence of the reform should lie on separation of the individual rights and the household registration. Thus, all people might have equal rights to enjoy the public service."
Wang says that the household registration system, although it played a positive role under the planned economic system in the past, is now, to some extent, standing in the way of the country's urbanization, which is essential to China's modernization.