China’s cabinet has issued detailed reform plans on the residence permit system, paying the way for changes that could give millions of migrant workers better access to education and welfare in cities.
Chinese leaders have pledged to loosen their grip on residence registration, or hukou, to try to remove obstacles to the urbanisation drive. The registrations prevent migrant workers and their families from getting access to education and social welfare outside their home villages.
Chinese citizens who have lived in cities outside their home towns for more than six months, with legal and stable employment or accommodation, will be allowed to apply for residence permits, according to rules issued by the State Council on Saturday.
Local governments will be responsible for providing basic pubic services, including education, social security and health care, for holders of residence permits, the rules states.
Qualified holders of the residence permits will be able to get a permanent hukou at places they live, according to the rules. The move, effective from January 1 of 2016, will help “promote the healthy development of new urbanisation” and “promote social fairness and justice”, the cabinet said.
Many big cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, have already implemented the new system. The capital city last week had proposed a new system giving permanent residence status to millions of people already living in the city.
The government said earlier this week that it will give household registration permits to its unregistered citizens and make medical insurance coverage more equal, as it looks to overhaul systems often under fire for failing those people most in need.
The move on household registration will open access to basic rights such as schooling and healthcare for about 13 million people. The government is struggling to balance goals such as encouraging the migration of millions of former farmers into cities, while avoiding the slums and unemployment problems that have occurred in other countries experiencing similar migration.