Urban hukou, or rural land? Migrant workers face dilemma

15:54, March 10, 2010      

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Hu Xiaoyan, one of China's first three national legislators who represent the country's millions of migrant workers, has had her official residency status transferred from her rural hometown in Sichuan to the city she now works in Guangdong.

To become an urban citizen, Hu had to surrender her farm plot back in her hometown.

For this reason many migrant workers who have the opportunity to change their residency status, or hukou, to become urban citizens have second thoughts. They do not want to give up their small plots of land.

Deputies from southern Guangdong Province to the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature, said at their panel discussion that local municipality's policy to attract migrant workers to settle down was not always welcomed by all the new-comers.

Guangdong's Zhongshan City has introduced a series of local policies and regulations to attract migrant workers to settle down by offering urban residency status.

According to Li Qihong, an NPC deputy and Zhongshan's mayor, more than 30,000 migrant workers working in the city are eligible to become urban citizens, but less than 200 of them have changed their hukou in 2009.

Chinese rural residents have been migrating to towns and cities since the late 1970s when the opening up and reform policy meant less farmers were needed to work on the land.

Currently, about 150 million migrant workers in cities, mainly working as temporary building labors and in the service industry, miss out on benefits linked to urban hukou, regarding education, housing and health among others.


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