Beijing may ease household residence rules

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing has proposed a new system giving permanent residence status to millions of people already living in the city, giving them better access to services like healthcare and education.

All Chinese citizens have a hukou, or residence registration account, which determines their access to education and other social welfare services.

However, the quality of services tied to a rural hukou is inferior to that of an urban account, a source of grievance for millions of Chinese migrants who live in cities but do not enjoy the same welfare services as permanent urban dwellers.

Ensuring a fair hukou system is crucial in supporting the world’s second-largest economy because it increases labor mobility at a time when the Chinese working population is shrinking. It would also lift domestic consumption by allowing migrants to put down roots in cities.

Under a new proposal released by the Beijing government on Thursday and carried by state media on Friday, people will be able to accrue points to get a permanent hukou for the Chinese capital, based on requirements including educational background and stable employment.

The number of points needed to get a Beijing hukou will vary depending on changes in the city’s population, according to the draft rules.

About seven million people in Beijing lack a permanent hukou, the government says.

The official China Daily said the move was expected to benefit white collar workers much more than the so-called migrant workers who work on things like building sites due to a requirement for social security fees to have been paid for seven years.

The Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily, said the rules could help Beijing control its explosive growth, which has led to pollution and congestion, by “optimizing” the population structure.

It is not clear when the rules may be put in place, as they are currently in the public consultation phase and may be altered before being put into effect, which could take several months or longer.

Beijing, one of the most popular destinations for Chinese from other parts of the country due to the allure of jobs and a good education, is one of the few cities that still requires migrants to apply for temporary residence permits.

The central government has been moving to ditch the temporary residence permit system completely but progress has been slow and few details forthcoming.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie