In an effort to counterbalance the urban-rural divide, China has taken an encouraging step by announcing plans to ease restrictions on urban settlement. According to reports from the Beijing Daily on Thursday, August 3, the change will predominantly apply to smaller and medium-sized cities, with the most significant cities like Beijing seeing more limited changes.
The country’s public security ministry will champion the “comprehensive lifting” of urban settlement restrictions in cities with less than three million permanent residents. Cities with a population of three to five million are also set to witness a “full relaxation” of settlement conditions. This approach signifies the implementation of elements from China’s 14th five-year plan that was unveiled in 2021.
The move targets the age-old ‘hukou’ household registration system, a mechanism that has been instrumental in creating a divide between urban and rural areas, impacting people’s access to welfare, education, and services. Hundreds of millions of individuals residing and working in China’s bustling cities have been deprived of equal access to services as compared to permanent residents, a point of contention that has caused significant resentment.
Many of these individuals have children who are forced to return to their remote home towns for education due to inaccessibility of schools in certain cities, thereby separating them from their parents. Over the last ten years, a few cities have gradually relaxed these policies, sometimes as pilot programs.
For example, just last month, the eastern province of Zhejiang announced its intention to lift all such restrictions for all its cities, excluding the capital, Hangzhou. Thursday’s announcement, however, signals a much broader relaxation of restrictions on a nationwide level.
For “super-large” cities with a population exceeding 5 million, including Beijing and Shanghai, the changes are less pronounced. The policy for those aiming to settle in these cities will be improved based on a points system, a fact that hasn’t slipped past the notice of online users.
However, the biggest cities in China, also the wealthiest, are known to have the best schools, hospitals, and job opportunities, making them the most desirable places to live.
This article is based on a report from thestar.com.my.