How to dismantle the hukou household registration system?

Prof. Kam Wing Chan, university of Washington, has recently released his proposal for a possible hukou reform. The problems caused by hukou have been widely discussed, but Chinese authorities fear the consequences of its dismantling. For prof. Chan, the persistence of this policy prevent the growth of the middle class, which is necessary to build a consumer-based economy. 

According to his research, the hukou reform needs to be progressively implemented in order to make its financial costs bearable for local government, and so hukou could be dismentled by 2030. To obtain this result, prof. Kam suggests to adopt a three-step-approach. Graduates should be the first group free from hukou registration. This policy would not threaten cities’ social security system as gradautes because of their youth and higher qualifications, are net contributors to social welfare.

Then, houselhold registration should be made easier for skilled workers. Chinese cities urgently need more qualified people in order to upgrade their productions. As skilled workers get higher wages, this second move would not endanger social welfare programmes.

The last part of this proposal is of course the most ambitious, since it has for objective to resolve registration issues for the remaining  migrants.  But for prof. Chan, China can afford this policy if the two former groups have already been turned into urban citizens. Thanks to the  contributions of graduates and skilled workers, cities would be able to strenghten their welfare programmes and so they could integrate other migrants. 

Prof Kam Wing Chan’s full text proposal


Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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One thought on “How to dismantle the hukou household registration system?

  1. Anna Guo

    Although I have not yet read the book wrote by Professor Chan, I would like to say I may hold the different opinion in terms of his three-step-approach. The hukou system separates Chinese people from urban to rural and from one region (city) to another, resulting people in the disadvantage group (maybe rural area maybe undeveloped region) cannot have the same treatment as other people have such as education, job opportunities, purchasing housing etc. In this context, graduates and skilled works are already in a better position than migrants in terms of life and work.I personally disagree with “Thanks to the contributions of graduates and skilled workers, cities would be able to strenghten their welfare programmes and so they could integrate other migrants. “. Considering a large number of migrant workers making contribution in the city regeneration process, they should be given the first priority to access to social welfare and public good.

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