Shanghai and Shenzhen will ease residency rules to attract talent

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 February, 2009, 12:00am

Shanghai and Shenzhen have announced plans to make it easier for workers from other parts of the mainland to gain permanent residency.

Both cities - two of the main drivers of economic reform - are expected to simplify the process for professional or affluent arrivals to switch to a full local hukou, or permanent residency permit.

Shanghai's deputy mayor, Hu Yanzhao, was quoted by local and state media yesterday as saying that the city was likely to offer a hukou to qualified individuals after a set period of continuous residency, possibly seven years.

Shenzhen may adopt a measure to extend permanent residency to anyone who can demonstrate they are 'useful to the growth and development' of the city, according to comments attributed to local party secretary Liu Yupu on the city's official website.

Xinhua reported that Mr Hu told Shanghai's human resources bureau on Tuesday that the city was planning to remove hukou quotas for well-educated residents or those with professional skills, and full proposals would be made public by the end of the month.

To qualify, residents would also need to be local taxpayers with a clean credit history and no criminal record.

He said the municipal government had yet to decide on the residency period required but was looking overseas for a model to follow.

'The time span of seven years is adopted by many countries in the world,' he said.

According to the Shenzhen website, Mr Liu said only 2.12 million of the city's 8.7 million long-term residents were hukou holders, but extending the number of holders would engender a 'sense of belonging and honour'.

'There are people who came to Shenzhen to work or start businesses in their teens, have given all their youth and talent to Shenzhen and have gained no small standing in their profession, yet the result is they still cannot get a hukou, are not Shenzhen people,' he said.

'There are times when we are too inflexible on problems related to gaining hukou status, when there is no practical necessity.

The hukou system has long been seen as an obstacle to population mobility. It is notoriously difficult to switch permanent residency from a person's place of birth to an adopted city or region. Residents who do not have a local hukou have only limited access to public services such as education and social welfare.

Zhou Haiwang, deputy head of the Institute of Demography and Development Studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said he believed the reform would have a positive impact.

'In Shanghai, the hukou system used to be very rigid and controversial,' he said. 'It provides limited quotas ... but now ... everyone who satisfies the requirements can change their temporary residence card to a Shanghai hukou after several years. This will make it better for the city to attract more talent.'