As the Chinese economy become increasingly finance led, an unprecedented influx of rural dwellers are flocking to urban centres. However, lax bureacracy and apathetic legislation has meant that many of these migrants have found themsevles vunerable to predjudice and exploitation.
One academic believes that in order to arrest these growing human rights abuses, China should adopt immigartion policies that mirror those in the EU. Professor Qing Wang believes that these politicies, which could replace China’s dated ‘hukou’ system, would nullify these violations, and bridge the growing gap between the urban super wealthy and rural poor.
Hukuo is predicated on an ancient household registration system which officially identifies a person as a resident of a specific area, along with details such as spouse, parentage, and date of birth. Hukuo has acted as a stop gap to prevent mass rural to urban migration. Workers are classified by the Communist Party as ‘urban’ or ‘rural,’ and to transition either way involves a protracted bureaucratic process. Those living outside their sanctioned areas are subject to withholding of benefits and services within their unofficial area of residence. To date, around 800 million Chinese are registered as ‘rural’ residents, and are inelligable for the benefits and security enjoyed by city dwellers.
The Chinese Government recently released its income distribution reform plans, which have taken years to put together, but shows the increasing concern over the widening wealth gap and the effect it could have on the country’s economic growth. Professor Wang, who is director of Marketing, Innovation and the Chinese Economy (MICE) network, believes China should adopt the best practices of the West to tackle its growing social problems.
The Professor states; “I think the ‘hukou’ system needs to be reformed. It was set up to control migration of people from one city to another and not let them move around – that is completely outdated now. For a large country like China there needs to be some kind of registering system, but it should not be a closed system for the existing residents.
The Chinese Government want to move people from the rural areas to the cities, but the ‘hukou’ does not allow them the benefits of the city. If you think of the thousands of migrants moving from rural areas there is no system in place to recognise their contribution to the city or set out a clear route for them to become a resident. There is no way they can benefit from the welfare and social care of the city that they contribute to.”
According to Wang, “China can learn from western systems in terms of immigration and the permanent residents system that the UK uses. There needs to be some criteria that once people fulfil they can then have benefits, healthcare and residential status.There should be some hope for those migrant workers for their future in the city. They have worked hard, it is not just a short term proposition, it should give them the opportunity of a future in the city.”
China has plans to inject 40 trillion yuan ($6.4 trillion) into transitioning 400 million people to cities over the next decade as the new leadership, which is currently being enrolled at the National People’s Congress, looks to boost growth through domestic consumption.