01/30/2023, 12.15
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Taboo broken: Welfare for workers migrating to the city from the countryside

They will be able to get an urban "hukou" for social services, schooling and the health care system. The government wants to encourage further urbanization of the country. The goal is to stimulate economic growth after the pandemic and in response to population decline. In Sichuan, unmarried couples will also be able to have children.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Central and local authorities will make it easier for migrant workers from the countryside to obtain an urban "hukou," the certificate of residence in the cities where they work. The document will give them access to city welfare for social services, schooling and the health care system. 

A real taboo is about to fall in China. At present, even if they have lived in the city for years, migrant workers must maintain residency in their places of birth. Thus, they have limited access to city hospitals, and their children cannot attend local high schools.

Under the hukou registration system, access to social benefits is determined by one's official place of residence, not where a citizen lives.

With the new move, the government wants to encourage further urbanization of the country. Shifting population from rural areas to urban centers, is the leadership's calculation, would free up a potential source of economic growth, since the best job opportunities are found in large cities-an antidote to the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic and the future effects of population decline.

According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, there are just over 295 million migrant workers in China. As highlighted by the South China Morning Post, in 2020 (the latest official survey) only 45.4 percent had urban hukou, however.

The wealth gap between urban households and those in the countryside remains significant. The former have a per capita disposable income of more than 49 thousand yuan (6,650 euros) per year; in rural areas it is just over 20 thousand (2,716 euros).

China's leaders are frantically seeking solutions to emerging economic challenges, intervening in situations of great social impact, such as the hukou system. Authorities also want to try to reverse the negative trend in demographics.

In a latest development, the Sichuan provincial administration has decided to allow unmarried couples to have children as well, so that they can benefit from public assistance-the central government had hitherto prohibited this.

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