Zhejiang could become the first mainland province to abolish the rural household classification system if the provincial government goes ahead with plans to scrap it by the end of next year. A statement released by the Zhejiang party committee and government said provincial authorities would abolish the rural-urban administrative divide and replace it with a new household registration system, Xinhua reported yesterday. Under the new system, migrants would have the same rights to public benefits as urban residents, and local authorities would be banned from levying additional administrative fees on rural people seeking work in cities. The unification of the hukou, or residency, system would put a greater financial burden on authorities in urban areas because local governments would be responsible for covering the added medical, education, insurance and welfare costs of migrant workers and their families. Zhejiang authorities and various other levels of government would increase their budgets to fund the new system, Xinhua said. Beijing Institute of Technology professor Hu Xingdou welcomed the new policy, saying Zhejiang was a pioneer of hukou reform. 'Actually, Hangzhou and Ningbo in Zhejiang eliminated extra tuition fees for migrant schoolchildren many years ago,' Professor Hu said. 'Their people-oriented policies have attracted many migrant workers to look for jobs in those cities.' He said Zhejiang's economy was reliant on private enterprise, and businesses in the province needed to attract migrant workers. 'Hukou reform in the province has been pushed forward by the innovation of the market economy,' Professor Hu said. Liu Xutao , a political scientist with the State School of Administration, said Zhejiang's wealth and prosperity qualified it to establish a new hukou system. 'Everything [for setting up a new hukou system] has been prepared well,' he said. Professor Liu said he believed Zhejiang's example would set a trend on the mainland, but it would take time for similar changes to take place throughout the country. 'It fulfils the principle of building up a socialist new countryside and a harmonious society. 'If China wants to merge into the international world, it is necessary for us to abolish rural residency because none of the developed countries has such a discriminatory system.'