China pushes to urbanise smaller cities

China pushes to urbanise smaller cities

China will relax or remove rigid household registration restrictions in small and medium-sized cities as part of the country's urbanisation push and to give migrant workers equal access to a range of services in cities.

The household registration, or hukou, system has for decades discriminated against migrant workers.

At a two-day urbanisation conference last week, Chinese leaders said hukou restrictions will be fully removed in towns and small cities to allow migrant workers to be more integrated. The restrictions in medium-sized cities will be gradually eased while "reasonable conditions" will be set for settling in big cities, according to a Xinhua news agency report last Saturday.

In stark contrast, the population in mega cities, already straining under the ever-growing numbers of migrant workers, will be strictly controlled in a bid by Beijing to even out development across the country.

Hukou reform is key to this urban push as millions of migrants who have moved to towns and cities are unable to benefit from urban welfare, education and health services because they are classified as rural residents.

"The key is providing urban hukou to migrant workers and improving their capability to settle in urban areas," the report noted.

Observers added that the hukou - and corresponding benefits - offered by smaller cities will in turn draw more migrants from mega cities instead.

The Xinhua report cited three metropolitan areas that will be developed in the next steps in China's urbanisation: the Pearl River Delta with Guangzhou at its centre, the Yangtze River Delta with Shanghai at its centre, and the Bohai Economic Rim with Beijing and Tianjin at its centre.

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