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Farmer-urban dweller fence being demolished
By Zheng Caixiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-28 00:08

Guangdong Province in South China is planning to take even bolder steps in reforms to household registration in the new year, with the aim of scrapping rural household registration system that is preventing farmers from enjoying many rights and advantages enjoyed by their urban peers.

"That means all the farmers in Guangdong will become 'urban' residents in the years ahead," said Zheng Shaodong, deputy director-general of the Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Public Security.

Meanwhile, the province is also considering whether to introduce a unified unemployment insurance system to both urban residents and farmers, another official told China Daily Monday.

"The move would safeguard the employment rights and legal interests of the province's many farmers who are now losing their farmland because of rapid industrial and service sector development," said the official, who declined to be identified.

Currently, farmers are not entitled to be registered as permanent urban residents in accordance with regulations in cities and towns, which were formulated decades ago.

That means farmers do not enjoy the same status as urban residents in training, education and medical insurance programmes.

And farmers now have no unemployment relief payments, like urban residents, if they cannot find jobs in urban areas.

Zheng said his bureau will continue to conduct more surveys and studies concerning further reforms of Guangdong's household registration system for next year.

"The household registration system reforms in Guangdong and even in all of China are a big and comprehensive project that involve and affect many Chinese families," Zheng said.

The cities and counties where conditions have been mature will be allowed to first scrap all their agricultural household registration systems, Zheng added.

The prosperous cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Zhongshan, Foshan, Dongguan, Jiangmen and Huizhou in the Pearl River Delta will become pilot areas testing the elimination of agricultural household registration in the near future.

Starting this year, Guangdong has scrapped quotas for farmers to become urban residents.

Guangzhou, the provincial capital, has decided to annually admit 50,000 farmers to urban residency status beginning this year, according to Guangzhou Vice-Mayor Su Zequan.

The Guangzhou municipal government has decided to annually invest more than 15 million yuan (US$1.82 million) to construct city satellite towns in its suburban areas to help speed up the urbanization of the southern Chinese metropolis between 2005 and 2009.

Su made the plans known in remarks at a recent work conference on agriculture, the countryside and farmers in Guangzhou.

Since 2001, a total of 138 villages have been built into urban communities while 350,000 farmers have become urban residents in Guangzhou, Su said.

To protect farmers' employment rights and other legal interests, the Guangdong provincial government is planning to allow its farmers who fail to find employment in urban areas to enjoy the same social welfare that is provided to their urban counterparts.

According to an official from the Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Labour and Social Security, new regulations to ensure farmers to have equal employment rights and opportunities are now being drafted.

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