New policy will raise consumption, says expert
An ambitious plan that vows to help 100 million migrant people gain household registration, or hukou, in cities could help break the urban-rural gap, accelerate urbanization and boost the country's economy, experts said.
The plan, issued by the State Council, is set to annually grant more than 13 million non-native residents, most of whom live in urban areas but are registered in their rural birthplace, hukou during the country's 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-20) and raise the ratio of urban residents to 45 percent by the end of 2020, according to the State Council's official website.
"China has seen a 1 percent annual increase in urban residents since 1990 and the ratio of urban residents has reached 53.7 percent," said Zhou Haiwang, deputy director of the Institute of Urban and Demography Studies with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. However, the figures don't cover the rural residents living in cities without hukou, he noted.
The new policy will significantly speed up urbanization, which will benefit the rural people in the long-term, Zhou added.
"The policy is significant as it specifies a yearly target for transferring people and asks for supervision over implementation," said Lu Jiehua, a sociology professor with Peking University.
The plan asks cities at certain level to relax restrictions for migrant workers on obtaining hukou and raise the quota, especially for rural residents who study or live in cities after joining the army.
"The growth of residents with hukou in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai in the following years will be rapid and extensive," Zhou said, noting these cities will have to deal with "relocation" to avoid overcrowding.
As big cities like Beijing are taking measures to combat overpopulation, it would be a policy "game" between the central and local governments, said Lu.
Meanwhile, Zhou pointed out that the new policy will also boost domestic consumption and production, as well as the country's industrial structural transformation.
"The reform will streamline the demographic structure, bringing more job opportunities to university graduates who wish to stay in cities," Du Peng, director of the Center for Aging Studies at the Renmin University of China.
Lu added that the earlier urbanization process was focused on farmland and encouraging rural residents to move to cities while the new "orderly" policy asks departments to take care of farmers' land rights and social benefits after they settle in cities.