Hukou Reforms A Small Step in Migration

Published on Author heardd16

Some refer to China’s hukou system as being similar to India’s caste system, segregating rural and urban residents and providing social benefits only to certain citizens.  In July of 2014, after decades of rural-urban migration and economic expansion, Beijing put hukou on the national reform agenda.  Instead of providing social benefits based solely on locale of origin and household registration, the state will consider criteria such as occupation, residence stability, length of residence time in city of concern, and social insurance contribution.  While reform to the hukou system does not an end-all solution for rural-urban migrants, reform is a “small step in this direction.”


The primary principle of the reform is to stop differential treatment of citizens based on their rural or urban origins.  Previously, officials could evict rural migrants for not having a proper permit.  Now, the state is obligated to provide the same social welfare benefits to migrants or rural origins as to urban citizens.  However, the Chinese government maintains a focus on population control.  Specifically, the state encourages smaller sized cities to incentivize immigration, while discouraging large cities from attracting migrants.  Many medium sized cities institute programs attracting skilled workers in lieu of none skilled workers.

3 Responses to Hukou Reforms A Small Step in Migration

  1. First, try to analyze this from a purely political perspective: why reform now?

    Second, what complementary reforms are needed? stable revenue sources for local government, which is delegated the task of providing the services to which hukou holders have (favored) access?

  2. There are strong political incentives to reform Hukou sooner rather than later. We talked about this briefly in class, but reforming now will greatly increase the number of people with urban hukous, who will then vote for/ support the party member or officials who instigated reform. Its an easy move to both increase popularity and the size of your constituency.

    In terms of complimentary reforms, the wages people beneficially and adversely affected will need to be addressed. Further infrastructure investments must also be made to accommodate the new wave of urban hukous, such as suitable living quarters and public health.

  3. I would think that a change in the Hukou system would be a good change for economic reasons as well. Wouldn’t it be better to not restrict people from spending their money how they want to? I just feel like there are opportunities being missed and it’s good that they are thinking of revising it.