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Yunnan to dismantle current hukou system

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The Yunnan government has announced that beginning on January 1 of next year, Yunnan province will eliminate the current hukou registration system that essentially binds rural Yunnanese to their officially registered place of residence - often their place of birth or where their parents are registered. This reform of the system currently in use will enable millions to legally move and integrate into cities for the first time.

Currently, Kunming and other cities including Yuxi, Qujing and Dali have a substantial and uncounted population of technically illegal residents with rural hukou (户口), or residential registration, that have relocated to the cities from the Yunnan countryside. Most members of this demographic typically move to these cities to work or search for a job and are ineligible for social benefits provided by the cities where they live to registered residents.

Under the current hukou regime, employers of these people must pay the local government social security taxes for benefits which cannot legally be given to people without a Kunming hukou. Furthermore, children of couples that do not hold Kunming hukou are ineligible to attend school in Kunming - even if both parents live and work in the city.

Beginning on New Year's Day 2008, the system of 'rural' and 'non-rural' hukou classification will be abolished throughout the province. Furthermore, applicants will be granted residential permits in their city of choice if they can provide proof of legal residence (such as an apartment lease) and if they can demonstrate that they have stable income.

Yunnan's hukou system shall be replaced by a new unified residential registration system known as yiyuanzhi (一元制), or "one-component system" that is expected to have major demographic ramifications on Yunnan's larger and more affluent cities. The new residential registration management system will not only cause populations of cities to grow via the absorption of these shadow populations into official population statistics, it will also facilitate the migration of more of Yunnan's rural populace into existing urban centers. A major goal of both China and Yunnan is the rapid urbanization of its vast rural citizenry - Kunming alone expects its population to grow by several million in the coming five years.

When asked about the changes to the registration system and the elimination of the current hukou system, one Kunming business owner said he welcomed the change.

"Almost all of my employees are from the countryside - I pay the government money to employ them but they don't get any benefits," he said. "Now they'll be eligible to receive the benefits we're paying for. But what's probably more important is their children will be able to attend school in Kunming."

Students of universities, colleges and technical schools will also benefit from the new system, which will allow them to register locally upon entering school. After graduation, however, the pressure to find employment will be higher - only those graduates that sign work contracts of at least one year in duration will be eligible for local residence. Graduates that are unable to find employment will have their registration revert to wherever they were registered prior to entering school.

Editor's note Carl Minzner, Associate Professor of Law at Washington University of Law in St Louis and editor of the insightful Chinese Law and Politics Blog has commented on this post, clarifying several issues related to this story. Perhaps the largest source of confusion from this post on GoKunming was our mention of the 'elimination of the current hukou system'. GoKunming did not intend to imply that Yunnan would abolish the hukou system altogether, rather, it would eliminate the 'rural' and 'non-rural' distinction. For this reason we wrote that the current hukou system in Yunnan would be dismantled/eliminated. We regret and apologize for any confusion this may have caused for our readers.

GoKunming thanks Professor Minzner for his clarifications and comments on our story - we'll do our best to avoid similar confusion in the future.

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wow. this is huge. also the first english coverage i've seen of this, and possibly the first out there. are the wires asleep?


hooray for real news!

"colder and wetter this week" indeed!

great coverage. where can I find out more about this?

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