Rural residents remain reluctant to register in cities
Dong Aibing works in Taiyuan, capital of North China’s Shanxi province, but he was born in a village called Daijiabao near the city.
The 44-year-old holds rural hukou, but thanks to his job at a kindergarten in Taiyuan, he bought a 130-square-meter apartment in the city three years ago.
Reform of the household registration system in recent years means Dong now has the right to register in the district where he bought his real estate and change his hukou from rural to urban, but he has declined to do so.
“I have a homestead and farmland back in Daijiabao. If the government wants to acquire the land some day to expand the city, the compensation would amount to a large sum of money,” he said. “China has a clear urbanization target, so it would be easy to change my rural hukou to an urban one, but changing it back afterwards would be very difficult.”
Dong has a point; according to the 13th Five-Year-Plan (2016-20), China’s urbanization rate is scheduled to reach 45 percent by the end of the decade.
Like Dong, an increasing number of rural residents who work in cities are unwilling to register for urban hukou.
According to media reports, many holders of rural hukou who owned land, especially in EastChina, became (yuan) millionaires or even billionaires overnight as a result of the high rate of compensation paid by local governments who commandeered land
At a media briefing in April, Xu Lin, head of the National Development and Reform Commission’s planning division, the country’s top economic planner, said there are many complex factors behind the reluctance to register for urban hukou.
“The main reason is that rural residents own their land,” he said.
That is a crucial factor, because when someone buys an apartment in a city they don’t gain ownership of the land on which the building stands, and they only have the right to live there for 70 years.
Xu said the government is working on a policy that will encourage rural residents in urban areas to accept compensation in exchange for ownership of their land and to apply to change their hukou status. He emphasized that residents have the final say on whether they register in cities or maintain their rural hukou.
“As public services in rural areas and cities become increasingly similar, a certain number of rural residents prefer to remain in their home areas,” he said. “No one will force them to register in cities because the registration reform is based on individual consent.”
He said many young people in rural areas want to live in cities, so they should be offered the chance to accept a retainer before they leave, settle down and register in cities. The retainer would give the local government first refusal to purchase their land.
“The mechanism for this is not fully established yet, butwe are working on it,” he said.