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People's Daily Online>>China Society

China focus: Rapid urbanization poses challenges for China's social security system

(Xinhua)

14:55, March 02, 2012

HEFEI, March 2 (Xinhua) -- Expecting to receive pension insurance previously enjoyed only by city residents, Chen Wenyun is happy to finally call himself an "urban citizen" of the city of Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui province.

"Only when I'm covered with pension insurance do I feel like an urban citizen," said the 45-year-old native of Hefei's Shushan district.

Hefei implemented a new social security system in February that covers both rural and urban residents without distinction. It is part of the city's efforts to address the rural-urban social security gap, which has widened in tandem with the nation's accelerating pace of urbanization.

In China, access to public services is determined by the "hukou," or household registration system. The system allows for benefits to be doled out to people who are properly registered as local residents of any given city or town, a status that most migrant workers do not possess.

This inequality in resource allocation discourages migrant workers from settling in certain areas. If not properly addressed, the system will hamper China's economic transition process, experts have warned

With a good salary and a stable place of residence in the city, Chen is one of hundreds of millions of Chinese farmers who have joined the country's expanding ranks of urbanites since China kickstarted economic reforms at the end of the 1970s.

China's urban population exceeded its rural population for the first time at the end of 2011, accounting for 51.27 percent of the country's population of nearly 1.35 billion people, according to figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics.

The historic population shift in China, which was an agrarian nation for centuries, has diverted policymakers' attention toward making social insurance available to all people, regardless of their place of residence.

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