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BEIJING: China’s new leaders are planning a system of national residence permits to replace the household registration or ‘hukou’ regime, a government source said, a vital reform that will boost its urbanisation campaign and drive consumption-led growth.
The hukou system, which dates to 1958, has split China’s 1.3 billion people along urban-rural lines, preventing many of the roughly 800 million Chinese registered as rural residents from settling in cities and enjoying basic urban welfare and services.
Critics have called for changes for years and a government researcher said a “unified national residence permit system” would be adopted as policy as part of a 10-year urbanisation plan to be published after the current annual session of parliament.
Benefits and entitlement under the system would be “basically equal”, he said, although the changes would be eased in slowly.
“The trend is to dilute the urban-rural household registration divide”, said the researcher.
Previous administrations have experimented with reform on the fringes of hukou for years but have not delivered on calls to overhaul the system, which affords different welfare and civic services to urban and rural citizens.
Outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao told parliament on Tuesday that hukou reforms should be accelerated to drive an urbanisation effort to boost economic development. Reuters