As of 1 October 2016, China’s capital Beijing implemented a new temporary residence permit system meant to benefit about eight million non-citizens residing in China. Holders of the permit will be given access to vital public services previously provided only to permanent residents.
Those living in the city of Beijing for over six months with employment, permanent residence, or full-time education, may apply for a permit at the public security offices. This permit will be issued within approximately 15 days, according to the provisional regulation.
The permanent population of Beijing, which currently exceeds 20 million, is able to acquire privileges that include educational opportunities, employment support, assistance to the elderly and social welfare. With the new system in place, eligible non-residents will also partake in these benefits.
The Hukou Reform
Reform to this system, more popularly known as China’s Hukou system, started 30 July 2014. The Hukou system, which refers to the certificate embodying the household registration system, was first introduced in 1958. During the 2014 reform, China’s State Council tried to eliminate the differences between the urban and rural hukou through the provision of the guidance for reform.
Part of the changes made is the strengthening of the rights of migrant workers. Without the urban residence permit, more than 245 million rural people who come to work in metropolitan areas have only limited access to public services, such as education, health, and government assistance.
Despite the good intentions that come with the reform, however, this system has often been criticized for its resulting injustices and because it impoverishes migrant workers, who are considered the key players in the economic development of the country and cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Canton, etc. This is the reason the system was “unified” through the elimination of the differences between rural and urban “hukou.”
Workers from the countryside must register legally in the big cities where they have settled while those residing in cities of less than 500,000 inhabitants, will have only to occupy a “legal and stable” housing. However, they must have a declared job to be eligible for a local hukou.
Despite this well-intended attempt for reform, complaints remained. This included the daunting requirements imposed on applicants for a resident status as shown in the table hereunder.
In line with the initiatives of the city of Beijing, Xiangyang City, Hubei also implemented a new residence permit system in January 2016, giving all rural and urban residents the same access to social security and public services. Registered migrant workers may retain their property rights in their respective villages. The city government has decided to allocate about 150,000 yuan, or US$23,500, for each resident in the form of basic allowances.