Urbanizing China long way from residence reform

Thu Mar 11, 2010 7:34am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Lucy Hornby

BEIJING (Reuters) - They build the skyscrapers and lay the highways, mind the city children, sew the clothes and tend the shops, but China's army of migrant laborers are still fundamentally aliens in the country's bustling urban centers.

Despite a push for reform ahead of this week's annual legislative meeting, the household registration, or hukou, system is likely to stay in place for the near future, slowing China's rapid urbanization by denying city services to its estimated 200 million migrant workers.

Granting them rights in cities could encourage them to spend more, fulfilling the goals of central planners to raise Chinese consumption and reduce dependence on export markets.

Reformers were disappointed when Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, who has made fairness and reducing income disparities a hallmark of his administration, called for relaxing the hukou requirements only in small and medium cities in his work report this month.

He didn't mention giving migrants equal treatment outside their provinces, or in China's biggest cities.

As evidence the central authorities are not open to radical change, editorials calling for abolishment of the hukou system were removed from most of the websites of 13 regional newspapers. The papers had launched a rare coordinated call for reform earlier this month.

The deputy editor who wrote the editorial for the Economic Observer was fired, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Defenders of the system contend cities are unable to provide the services migrants demand in the absence of a nationwide and transferable social security network.   Continued...

<p>Workers are seen at a construction site next to newly-built apartment blocks in central Beijing January 11, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Lee</p>