China’s top planning authority pledged it will issue procedures designed to help migrant workers and their families acquire full urban residential status.
The National Development and Reform Commission will, for the first time, take over the leadership of the process and speed the change, according to Xu Shaoshi, the NDRC’s chief, at a high-level conference about the reform held last week.
Providing full urban household registration, or hukou, to migrant workers was listed as one of the major tasks for the NDRC this year.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and some provinces have already adopted their own plans to facilitate the change, ahead of the central government’s announced goal of helping up to 100 million rural migrants, before 2020, to permanently settle in the place where their city jobs are located.
The hukou system, dating back a half-century, features strict separation between urban and rural citizens in their economic rights and welfare entitlements. But despite the Chinese leaders’ call for change in 2014, not many migrant workers have been given urban hukou, officials said.
Speeding things up will help not only to create more urban consumers but also to fill some unsold urban housing units with new residents through the government’s subsidized rental programs for low-income families, a document from the NDRC said.
Helping migrant workers and their families change their hukou status will be particularly useful as some third- and fourth-tier cities need to offload excess real estate inventory, Xu said.
Yao Yang, dean of Peking University’s National School of Development, previously suggested that local governments should buy back some unsold homes to turn them into low-rent properties for workers.
Others, including Sun Di, an economics professor at California State University, Long Beach, questioned whether the government’s ambition can be realized, saying local governments are already cash-strapped and may not be able to help many migrant workers.