Residence permit system to give equal rights for Shenzhen migrants

By Chen Hong (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-07-01 07:45
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SHENZHEN - A new residence permit system will be launched next month, in a bid by authorities here to provide more equality for the city's 8 million migrant workers.

Any Chinese person, aged 16 to 60, who has been working in Shenzhen for more than 30 days but does not have a registered permanent residence, will be required to apply for a residence permit at their local police station, an interim regulation published on Monday said.

Wang Pu, director of the Shenzhen office of legislative affairs, said: "The introduction of the residence certificate system aims to gradually remove the barriers between the permanent and migrant populations, so the latter can enjoy the same treatment as local residents and regard the city as their home."

Shenzhen, which was once little more than a fishing village, can attribute much of its success to migrant workers. Today, it has 2.1 million "official" residents and almost 8 million "unofficial" ones, who are disadvantaged when it comes to getting access to healthcare services or applying for driving licenses.

While a number of cities, including Shanghai, Qingdao, and Chengdu, have begun reforming their hukou systems, Shenzhen will be the first to offer "citizenship" to all of its Chinese residents.

The new system is being introduced following a four-month trial in the city's Yantian district. It will replace the temporary residence permit scheme launched in 1984, Wang said.

The new permit holders will be entitled to a range of free public services, including being able to apply for driving licenses and business visas for Hong Kong or Macao, he said.

Children of permit holders will also be entitled to the same compulsory education as their permanent peers, and families will be able to apply for the government's low-cost housing.

Without the permits, migrant workers cannot even rent an apartment in the city, Wang said.

Shi Zhigang, deputy director of the Shenzhen public security bureau, said the government will subsidize half the cost of the new smart cards - 10 yuan - in an attempt to encourage people to apply for them. The cards will be valid for 10 years for people who work or own a property in the city, and six months for the rest, he said.

During the scheme's trial run, more than 175,000 permits were issued, accounting for 91 percent of the population of Yantian district. The government has a target to issue 5 million permits within a year of the scheme's launch, Shi said.

Xu Shu, a recruitment agent who has lived in Shenzhen for five years, said the system will help attract people to the city.

"More people will choose Shenzhen because they won't have to worry about things like social security or their children's education," he said.