Simon from Simon's World has an interesting post on the potential abolishment of the Chinese system of hukou. Hukou is the Chinese system of registration that ties an individual to the location they are from and has been used by communist parties to restrict travel within a country along with tracking employment and providing health benefits. However, with the massive migration from rural areas to urban cities in China, the Hukou system broke down. The main effect was creating second-class citizens of the rural workers who ended up in the cities, because they lost access to health care and education. There are anywhere between 100-200 million Chinese affected in urban areas originally from rural parts of China.
This move may be part of the Chinese Communist Party's efforts to stem growing unrest over economic conditions. Simon reports:
"Up to 11 provinces are contemplating abolishing hukou. This would allow rural migrants access to the same health, education and social security benefits as city dwellers. It will also end distinctions based on where you are from rather than where you live. The move is also considered part of the effort to close potential unrest over China's income gap between the rural poor and richer cities. Given the new 5-year plan's obsession with stability, more of these measures recognising economic reality are likely going forward."
He notes that similar efforts were attempted in the past, only to not be implemented or rescinded because of their large financial costs on the major cities. The major benefit may be the effects on education of the children of rural Chinese children living in urban areas. According to the US Embassy:
"Why would rural migrants with stable work and a fixed dwelling in an urban area feel the need to change hukous? The main reason is their children's education, according to a Chinese labor economist who has studied hukou reforms in Fenghua, a small city within the jurisdiction of Ningbo (Zhejiang). According to the economist, Fenghua's rural hukou holders must pay RMB 3,500 (USD 437) for their children's yearly primary school tuition, inclusive of various book fees. For urban hukou holders, primary school costs only RMB 1,200 (USD 150) per child per year. The economist said that this disparity typified most urban centers. Moreover, discriminatory education policies made it more difficult for rural hukou holders than urban hukou holders to enter universities. An urban hukou could thus mean the difference between a lifetime of manual labor and a high-paying white-collar career for one's children, the economist observed."
Simon hopes that it will lead to greater democracy and economic reform. "The key point is this: Facts on the ground can push governments into changes they may not want to make. Even if they don't realise it, changes like this bolster those of us who believe China's economic changes will eventually force the collapse of the CCP and lead to democracy." I truly hope he is right.