Updated 4:59 PM EDT, Fri, Oct 11, 2019

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Hukou System Reform May Not Spell Big Difference For Chinese Migrants

Chinese Migrants

(Photo : Reuters / Aly Song) Migrant construction workers wash and clean outside their dormitories after a shift at a residential construction site in Shanghai July 17, 2013.

China announced yesterday that it will reform the much despised hukou household registration system in the country, but the changes appear to have little effect on the government benefits that the rural and urban residents receive.

For decades, the hukou system allowed the urban registration holders to obtain more government benefits and services than the rural hukou holders and made life difficult for the Chinese migrants.

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Although the announced reform may sound appealing, Quartz explained that it hardly makes any difference because the people's government benefits will still depend on their town or city of registration.

The new rules will only allow the former rural hukou holders to transfer to smaller cities and not to the bigger cities in the eastern coast of China. The reforms will not create any impact on the lives of most of the migrant workers who make up the labor supply of various Chinese cities.

Among the changes announced is the ease on the limit of the number of people that can apply for a hukou in smaller towns. This allows them to receive the same social security benefits with the residents born in the city as well as work in a smaller city.

Medium-sized cities, or those with a population ranging from 1 million to 3 million, would be able to offer proper social security benefits to more residents.

Unfortunately, the new regulations do not give migrant workers the same permanent residence benefits that people in bigger Chinese cities receive. Cities with a population range of 3 million to five million will grant hukou appropriately, but those with a population of over 5 million will impose a strict limit on hukou registrations.

Based on the announcement, the government will implement a points system to give the best and most brilliant Chinese citizens the chance to become permanent residents in Beijing, Shanghai, and other mega-cities in China.

Some see the reforms as a prelude to premier Li Keqiang's urbanization plan to boost China's economy and allow 100 rural residents to move to cities by the year 2020. By allowing the present rural residents to find work and start spending money in small cities, the new policy helps improve the local real estate market.

The changes in the hukou system also helps ramp up urbanization in western China, where smaller and more undeveloped provinces abound. However, local media noted President Xi Jinping junked similar reforms in his post-graduate thesis.

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