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China's largest city relaxes residency policies for migrants


08:24, June 20, 2013

SHANGHAI, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Authorities in Shanghai announced on Wednesday that they will ease controls over residency permit applications for non-locals starting from July.

The new regulation makes Shanghai the first Chinese metropolis to give nearly equal urban status to non-locals.

According to a new residency permit regulation issued on Wednesday, non-Shanghai residents can apply for a residence permit evaluation by accumulating 120 "points," which are calculated using numbers of factors including an applicants' age, education background, profession and work performance.

Sun Changmin, head of the Shanghai Population Association, said the regulation is a milestone in the reform of the existing population management system, which is based on household registration rather than one's actual place of residence.

As China's largest city, Shanghai has 25 million permanent residents, among which nearly 10 million are migrants.

Chinese authorities underlined the need to help rural migrant workers become urban residents, calling it an important task for the country's urbanization, according to its first policy document for 2013 released earlier this year.

To promote urbanization, especially concerning migrant workers, China will put forward reforms of its household registration system, loosening requirements for obtaining residency permits in small and medium-sized cities and small townships, the document said.

Yet it is a different story in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

The Chinese government insisted that migrant workers should enjoy equal rights and benefits in subsidies, education of their children, public health, housing and cultural services. However, under current household registration, people are entitled to different welfare levels including education and endowment insurance, with urban residents in major cities enjoying the higher level of welfare.

Change is never easy.

Lu Ming, a professor with Shanghai Jiaotong University, said that policy makers of major cities need to balance carefully between allowing more migrants to enjoy the same level of welfare as local residents and the very limited capacity of the city.

Sun said the points-oriented residency permit system in Shanghai represents a good start in population management reform. This system allows people to obtain new points by improving themselves in education background, professional skills as well as making more social contributions.

After it goes into effect on July 1, this policy will benefit migrant workers as they obtain the 120 points required by having a strong education background or professional skills, or doing jobs in fields that are urgently needed by the city.

Education counts for a great deal of points, with a doctor's degree worth 110 alone. Yet with excellent professional skills, migrant workers can obtain as much as 140 points if they are qualified for senior professional and technical positions.

For non-local Shanghai residents, holding a residence card means their children can access the same educational resources as locals, as well as stand on equal footing with locals in terms of obtaining social welfare.

He Hui, a white-collar worker at a foreign-funded firm in Shanghai, is among the beneficiaries.

"The new regulation will save me the trouble of changing my household registration from Hangzhou to Shanghai in exchange for my child's education in Shanghai," said He, a native of Hangzhou in east China's Zhejiang Province.

She said her rural household enables her to keep allocated farmland back in her hometown. With the new regulation, she can keep her land while securing urban benefits in Shanghai.

"If I can work long enough in Shanghai, my child can live with us and get the same education opportunities as other kids in Shanghai. It will all be worth it for the toil that my wife and I have had in the city," said Chen Dongfang, who works at an assembly line in an industrial park in Shanghai's Songjiang District. Chen left the farmland of north China's Henan Province and worked for seven years as a migrant worker in Shanghai.

Applicants also need to keep a clean nose, as the regulation also specifies points deduction clauses.

For example, falsified records, once detected in an applicant's documentation, can result in the loss of 150 points. A criminal record can cost a loss of 150 points.

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