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Society & Culture

Crossing the great divide

Feb 15, 2011

Reform of the household registration system will reduce the inequality that exists between urban and rural residents.

As the two sessions approach, the People’s Daily website is undertaking a survey to find out what topics ordinary people think our legislators and political advisers should prioritize in the discussions. Among the topics proposed is reform of the household registration system and elimination of the artificial distinction between urban and rural residents.

In 1958, a household registration system was introduced in order to control the movement of people between rural and urban areas. At that time, China was developing its heavy industries in a bid to increase its national strength. Since nearly all the industries were located in cities, it was natural to concentrate national resources on urban areas for industrial growth. The rural areas thus became a raw material production base for the cities and the movement of rural residents to cities was strictly controlled so as not to disrupt the urban industrial labor market. Hence the distinction between the agricultural (rural) and non-agricultural (urban) household registrations.

While it’s true that the household registration system was effective in accumulating social wealth for industrial development, it also contributed to the creation of a divide between urban and rural areas.
As time went by, holders of the agricultural household registration not only had to endure restrictions on their movement, they were also greatly disadvantaged when it came to healthcare, education, employment and marriage, etc.

Read full article here

He Rulong is a doctoral scholar with the Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, School of Law, China University of Political Science and Law.

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