Shanghai to reform hated residency registration

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 October, 2009, 12:00am

Shanghai will separate social welfare benefits from the household registration system in another step to reform the notorious hukou policy,

The proposals are intended to sharply increase access to public services such as child care, education and health and elderly care for the city's six million non-permanent residents.

The municipal government had discussed ways to extend the provision of services to residents regardless of their hukou status, the city's official portal reported.

The plan was discussed on Monday by the Shanghai People's Congress Standing Committee. The website said officials were 'researching' mechanisms to allow non-Shanghai hukou holders to be eligible for education, employment, health care, emergency economic assistance and social insurance after registering as residents in a district.

The proposals are part of an ongoing review of population policy in a city that is expected to top the 20 million mark within the next few years despite a low-birth rate.

The announcement follows a series of articles in the city's official media saying the global financial crisis had not undermined Shanghai's attractiveness to migrants - with particular emphasis on professionals from overseas.

If implemented, the measures would be a major step towards removing one of the key barriers to social mobility.

The hukou system has been much criticised for effectively requiring citizens to receive their public services at their birthplaces. Although the system has been relaxed, it remains notoriously difficult for migrants to gain permanent residency - a problem that has emerged because of the massive migrations over the past two decades.

However, Shanghai is one of many cities that have begun breaking down the system's prohibitive nature, largely motivated by a need to attract top professionals. More than six million of Shanghai's 18.6 million inhabitants did not have local hukou at the end of 2007.

In June, the city introduced a scheme to allow long-term immigrants to qualify for permanent residency under relaxed criteria. The first to qualify under the mechanism - which is on a three-year trial - gained their hukou last month.

The tiered system means some incoming migrants will qualify for Shanghai hukou in as little as three years, but for most it will take at least seven. Priority is being given to the highest earners and investors: immigrants who have posted a taxable income averaging more than 1 million yuan (HK$1.1 million) for three consecutive years and the owners of businesses with at least 100 employees. Teachers and health workers in the city's rural periphery are also being fast-tracked. They may apply after five years' residency.

Prized status

The relaxed criteria are not expected to produce a flood of new hukou holders for several years

By the end of last year the number who had qualified for a temporary resident's permit was: 270,000