CHINA'S decades-long household registration system has cost the peasants billions of yuan to buy a ''household'' in cities, it was reported yesterday. The semi-official China News Service quoted statistics as showing that three million rural families paid a staggering total of 25 billion yuan (HK$22.2 billion) to secure a registered household in cities. ''In some less developed regions, the phenomenon of peasants paying for urban household registrations so that they can get jobs and do some business in cities still exists,'' the report said. ''This has resulted in a challenge from peasants over the unreasonable system.'' The system, introduced to strictly control the flow of rural population into cities, is set to become history. Under the system, Chinese citizens are categorised as ''rural'' and ''non-rural'' households. For instance, only ''non-rural'' households are able to have housing and employment in cities. The Chinese Government realised the household registration system could no longer bar rural people from moving into cities. The agency also quoted Professor Han Jun of the Chinese Academy of Social Science's Institute of Rural Development as saying that the restriction was not justified. Any individuals who have a stable income should be qualified to apply for temporary or long-term residency anywhere, he said. The report quoted experts as saying that the current registration system which was a product of the planned economy had also severely slowed down the pace of urbanisation in the country. In the face of the problem of rural surplus workforce, the Communist Party decided in its Central Committee plenum in mid-November to relocate the surplus workforce by allowing peasants to find jobs and run their business in cities. A number of departments including the Public Security Ministry and Ministry of Construction are studying ways to improve the household system.