Updated: 2012-02-27 08:04
The government is caught in a cleft stick when it comes to the household registration of villagers-turned-workers.
It has to balance the need to make life easier for villagers-turned-workers, enabling them to enjoy the social benefits their urban counterparts take for granted, with the unbearable pressure many big cities are facing in terms of resources.
The State Council released a document on Thursday that allows county seats and small cities to register those who apply for a hukou, so long as they have stable jobs and incomes. It also allows those who have worked for three years in prefecture level cities to register as urban residents.
The document requires that new policies concerning employment, compulsory education and skill training should not make household registration a means of exclusion.
The document also promises that further efforts will be made to unify household registration for both urban and rural residents. And it says that policies that have made life difficult for villagers-turned-workers should be rectified or abolished.
That it cites as a bad example the indiscriminate admission of rural villagers as urban citizens in some cities points to the unbalanced development in the past three decades, which has made big metropolis, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, with their greater opportunities, the destination for rural residents seeking a better quality of life.
However, their constantly swelling populations have put severe pressure on these metropolises. Even many provincial capitals or local major cities are struggling to cope with problems arising from a rapid increase in population - such as traffic jams, air pollution, a lack of water, and the lack of an efficient way to treat garbage and sewage in an environmentally friendly way.
But migrant workers who have made great contributions to the development of the cities where they live and work are justified in seeking to enjoy the same social benefits as their urban counterparts. It is also reasonable that there should be an adjustment in policies to favor the disadvantaged.
There is no doubt that the current household registration system leaves much to be desired. Many people who live and work in a city with their household registration elsewhere face barriers in purchasing a house or registering their children in the college entrance examinations.
The new document shows that the central government is trying to find ways to make life easier for villagers-turned workers.
Nevertheless, if rural villagers or even urban residents from the less developed areas suddenly swarm into the provincial capitals it will not be a solution to the country's unbalanced development.
Instead, it will cause even more problems and make development even more unbalanced.
A major policy adjustment to address the unbalanced development pattern is needed in the long-term.
(China Daily 02/27/2012 page8)