Chinese cities will be ordered to partially or in some cases completely lift restrictions on new domestic migrants as the competition to attract a shrinking pool of graduate talent intensifies in the world’s second largest economy. China’s National Development and Reform Commission published its 2019 urbanisation plan on Monday, specifically stating cities with a population under three million should lift all restrictions on new domestic migrants, while cities with populations between three to five million should “comprehensively relax permanent residency requirements”. Other larges cities including Beijing and Shanghai can maintain some of their current population control measures, which set a slightly higher threshold for migrants, but under the plan, should allow more people to settle within their jurisdictions. The scramble for domestic migrants by provincial capital cities highlights an increased focus on urbanisation as municipal authorities realise that they need a consistent inflow of people to sustain local property markets and to prompt economic growth. Hangzhou, the provincial capital city of affluent Zhejiang province, last week announced that it will grant permanent residency to migrants with college education and above, a relaxation from the previous regulation that stated a person with a college education degree can only apply for permanent residency if they are under 35 years old. Shijiazhuang, the capital city of the province of Hebei, announced last month a “zero threshold” policy for domestic migrants, a significant change from the previous policy that required “stable employment and residency” for a certain period of time as a precondition for granting permanent residency. In February, the city of Xian announced that any Chinese citizen with a university degree can become a permanent resident of the city, with the rule also applying to students who have not yet graduated. The bottom-up efforts by municipal governments are endorsed by Beijing as the central government regards “urbanisation of people” as the single largest driver for the country’s economic growth. According to a plan published in 2016, China plans to grant urban permanent residency to 100 million people by 2020. China has implemented a rigid household registration system, known as hukou, to control domestic migration. Migrants without hukou are often denied full access to pension, education and health care benefits that are reserved for those with permanent residence. A hukou is a household registration document all Chinese citizens must have that controls access to public services based on the birthplace of the holder. Migrant workers will hold hukou from their hometowns, meaning that they will have very limited rights to public services in any other city that they move to for work. In general, the larger a city, the more difficult it is to obtain its hukou. Beijing, for example, is famously unfriendly to domestic migrants after the municipal government kicked hundreds of thousands of domestic migrants out of the city in the winter of 2017 after a fire killed 19 people. However, the wave began to turn as the country’s working population, defined as those aged between 16 and 59, shrank for the seventh consecutive year in 2018. According to research team from Tsinghua University led by Long Ying, an urban planner expert, nearly one third of Chinese cities have shrunk between 2013 and 2016 with reduced population and economic activities.