The Hukuo is Here To Stay

It looked like we were going to see the end of the hukuo in Yunnan. For those readers living outside China, the hukou is a residence registration document that every Chinese person has. The document is linked to the person’s hometown or the hometown and it determines where the funding for their social security and schooling will go. Yunnan province was supposed to make it easier for people who had lived in another city for at least a year and had a stable income to change their hukuo to the city where they were currently living. But according to the China Law and Politics Blog that really isn’t the case:

“The announced Yunnan reforms will eliminate the distinction between “agricultural” and “non-agricultural” hukou status, according to an October 25 Xinhua article. Similar reforms have been announced by a number of other provinces and municipalities. But they do not affect the requirement that migrants obtain local hukou in urban areas to receive public services and benefits on an equal basis with other urban residents.

The proposed Yunnan reforms will require migrants to urban areas to have a “fixed place of living” and a “stable source of income” in order to shift their hukou registration to an urban area. According to the Xinhua article, the Yunnan reforms define “fixed place of living” as property ownership of a home in an urban area, or possession of one allocated by one’s work unit prior to 1995. How many rural migrants satisfy that condition?

The Yunnan reforms actually look almost identical in content to those announced by dozens of other provinces and municipalities. For more information, see these posts (1, 2), the topic paper of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), and this list of similar reforms.”

Accord to the Chinese Law and Politics blog “stable income” is holding “a professional position” or “owning your own business” And as the writer mentioned there aren’t many migrant workers that fit that position. I also find this bad for another reason: it goes against the government’s harmonious society claims.

The government says it wants to eliminate the gap between rich and poor and it wants to stop the large amount of surplus rural labour from moving from the countryside because it is getting harder to find jobs for all of these people (and that could create political unrest for the government). Why not let the people move and settle in new towns if they can get jobs there to support themselves? If a migrant worker can get adequate social security and medical benefits in an area, he’ll stop moving. He’ll have achieved his goal of getting a better life and will stop moving (and therefore being perceived as a threat liability by the government). By not changing the hukuo system the governments in Yunnan, Beijing and all the provinces are just making the situation worse.

J.

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