Guangzhou moves to abolish rural hukou

Updated: 2013-05-10 01:57

By ZHENG CAIXIONG in Guangzhou (China Daily)

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Guangzhou has taken the lead in Guangdong province to scrap a rural hukou, or household registration system, which is preventing farmers from enjoying many rights and advantages enjoyed by their urban peers.

Starting this week, household registration departments under the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau have required local residents to change their residence booklets to identify them as permanent Guangzhou residents, according to a notice on the bureau's official website.

"That indicates all the farmers in the southern metropolis will become urban residents after they have changed their residence booklets in the following months," said the notice.

"The move will safeguard the employment rights, education and other legal interests of the city's many farmers who are now losing their farmland because of rapid industrial and service-sector development," the notice said.

In previous years, farmers have not been entitled to be registered as permanent urban residents of the city in accordance with regulations in cities and towns, a policy created several decades ago.

That means farmers who are registered with rural hukou do not have the same status as urban residents in training, education, pension and medical insurance programs.

And farmers usually have no unemployment relief payments, like urban residents, if they fail to find jobs in urban areas.

"Scrapping the rural hukou will also help speed up the city's urbanization construction drive," the notice said.

Zheng Zizhen, researcher and former dean of the Sociology and Population Institute of the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, said that merely removing the rural hukou for farmers is not enough.

"Scrapping the rural hukou is meaningless if the farmers' social welfare cannot really be improved after they have changed their residence booklets to be registered as urban residents," he said.

"City departments should still have to work hard and try to afford farmers the same social welfare, including employment, education, training, housing, pension, medical and social security, after they have changed the new residence booklets," Zheng said.

Zheng said that many cities in Guangdong and other parts of the country have also scrapped rural hukou in past years, but the social welfare of the farmers did not improve after they became urban residents.

He cited Foshan, a city located near Guangzhou, as an example.

"Foshan has not had rural hukou for some years, but its pace of the urbanization is still very slow because most of the farmers' social welfare cannot be improved after they have become urban residents," he said.

"Government departments should do more than just drop the rural hukou to improve farmers' social welfare and status," he added.

Lin Chengyao, a Guangzhou office worker, said city departments should remove the city-rural fences and eliminate the differences between rural and urban household registration because those differences are not fair to the farmers.

"Many farmers who do not have urban hukou have actually lived in the urban area, or in the city's urban villages, after their farmland has been requisitioned for industrial and service development in past years," Lin said.

Guangzhou has a population of more than 12 million according to a 2011 census, including a large number of migrant workers.

In a related development, the State Council, China's Cabinet, had planned to introduce a new city residential permit system to replace the current hukou system during a meeting on Monday.

The hukou system has brought many difficulties to migrant workers since their children can't enjoy equal education rights in the city with the native residents. There are 252.78 million migrant workers nationwide, the National Bureau of Statistics said in April.

An Baijie contributed to this story.

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