Rural migrants excluded from urbanization benefits

Updated: 2011-03-28 09:44
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China's massive population of rural migrants has been excluded from receiving the full benefits -- from health care to education -- of China's rapid urbanization drive, despite their remarkable contribution to this drive, a senior agricultural official said.

Chen Xiwen, vice director of the Leading Group on Rural Work of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, told a development forum in Shanghai that although an army of people has moved from the countryside to work and live in cities in recent years, they are not treated as city dwellers.

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Nearly half of China's population -- 630 million -- lived in urban areas in 2010, according to official statistics. The number of urban residents has grown by approximately 37 percent over the past ten years.

Experts said the calculation includes 285 million rural migrants who do not have an urban "hukou", or household registration. They have little access to education, social welfare and other rights and benefits that come with the registration.

Many migrant workers have to return to the countryside to retire, raise children or treat illnesses as their limited pensions are not enough to cover the high cost of living in cities.

The current two-tier "hukou" system was first introduced by the government in the 1950s to restrict population flow. The system has been revised since then, but experts have called for further changes in order to end discrimination against rural migrants living in cities.

Chen said the development of infrastructure in Chinese cities has far outpaced the development of benefits for urban dwellers, and it has become a pressing issue for the government.

The government will "make up the missed lessons" of full urbanization, he said.

Yang Weimin, an official with the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planning commission, said at the forum that the government is considering granting urban household registration to rural migrants who have a stable income and have been living in cities for a certain number of years.

Yang said the government will also find ways to extend social welfare to those who do not qualify for the time being.