MIL-OSI China: Deepening reform of household registration system expected to boost urbanization, rural vitalization

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Source: People’s Republic of China – State Council News

Deepening reform of household registration system expected to boost urbanization, rural vitalization

China has further improved its household registration system to promote new urbanization and comprehensive rural vitalization, but there are certain constraints that still need to be addressed to fully streamline the process, officials and experts said.

Data from the Ministry of Public Security shows that with the enhancement of household registration policies, approximately 50 million people who moved to cities from rural areas have obtained urban residency since 2019.

As of the end of 2023, the country’s urbanization rate among registered residents reached 48.3 percent, data showed.

The ministry has steadily advanced reform in the household registration system, the residence permit system and the off-site processing of identity cards, said Li Guozhong, a ministry spokesman.

“Currently, restrictions on urban household registration have been largely relaxed nationwide, except in a few megacities in eastern China and some provincial capitals in central and western China,” he said.

Li said the ministry is collaborating with the National Development and Reform Commission, as well as other departments, to encourage localities to adopt policies tailored for local conditions and reduce barriers to urban household registration.

The Government Work Report for 2024 emphasized the priority of granting permanent urban residency to eligible individuals who have relocated from rural areas to cities.

The report called for deepening reform in the household registration system, refining relevant policies, and ensuring that all rural migrant workers in cities are able to obtain permanent urban residency, if they so desired.

Zhang Qi, director of Beijing Normal University’s China Rural Revitalization and Development Research Center, highlighted the importance of expediting the granting of urban residency to eligible individuals, who have moved from rural areas to cities, as a crucial aspect of the new urbanization process.

This can stimulate direct investment in housing supply and infrastructure improvement, attracting new industrial investment and promoting consumer spending to support stable economic growth, he said.

“The primary focus of granting urban residency to the agricultural population is to ensure that they can find employment, become prosperous and settle well in cities. This requires enhancing public services such as employment security and social welfare to boost their sense of belonging, achievement and value,” he said.

Zhang emphasized that the process can optimize the allocation of human resources as well as further facilitate the efficient flow of capital, technology and culture between urban and rural areas, ultimately benefiting the construction of a new development pattern.

Three factors

Housing supply, public services coverage and the household registration system are the three main factors preventing such migrants from obtaining urban residency, he said.

Home prices in cities still exceed the purchasing power of most people, and unstable employment often disqualifies them from accessing affordable housing, Zhang said, adding that efforts need to be intensified to gradually integrate this group into the urban housing security system and continuously enhance the stability of their employment and income.

Basic public services such as education and healthcare have yet to reach all permanent residents, he said. Some migrant children are unable to receive compulsory education on par with their peers in new locations, and significant disparities exist in basic public services such as elderly care and healthcare across regions, he added.

Zhang emphasized the need for sustained investment in education and healthcare, as well as a scientific allocation of resources in these sectors, to effectively address the issues.

While the threshold for urban residency has been gradually lowered in recent years, ordinary laborers still face difficulties in obtaining urban residency in some major cities, he said, adding that policies for granting permanent household registration to residents of rented homes are often inadequately implemented.

Zhang recommended further regulating the channels for obtaining urban residency and establishing mechanisms to safeguard the rights of rural migrants who choose to exit collective economic organizations. He emphasized the need for a progressive reform approach to ensure the stability of policy transitions.

Primary task

Zheng Shanjie, director of the NDRC, said at a news conference in March that the urbanization rate of the permanent resident population increased from 53.1 percent in 2012 to 66.16 percent last year.

There are still 170 million migrant workers and their families who have not yet settled down in urban areas, he noted, emphasizing the orderly promotion of urbanization for this group as a primary task.

Issues such as education for children, housing security and social insurance will be prioritized for people who have moved from rural areas to cities, Zheng said, adding that the objective is to promote equal access to basic public services among permanent residents.

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