China should dismantle its widely loathed residency registration system, which restricts access to medical insurance and other benefits for hundreds of millions of migrants, a Chinese government-affiliated think tank was reported as saying yesterday.
The Development Research Center (DRC) of the Chinese State Council — or Cabinet — issued a list of far-reaching reform proposals ahead of a key meeting of the Chinese Communist Party due next month, when changes are expected to be approved.
Residency is a key controversy in China, where those who hold urban hukou (戶籍), or permits, have greater rights to state medical insurance, education and other services in each area, often excluding the hundreds of millions of people who have moved to China’s cities over recent decades in search of better incomes.
The DRC said the system should be replaced with a “basic social safety package,” including pension and medical insurance, media reports have said.
“All the benefits should be recorded in a personal social security card ... that can be used nationwide,” it said, according to excerpts published by the semi-official China News Service. “With the moving of the time and the expansion and improvement of the plan, it is expected to eventually replace the residency registration system.”
The measure is aimed at “promoting the free migration of the people, ensuring the basic social benefits for the citizens, optimizing the distribution of resources and the improvement of productivity,” the report added.
The proposals have been submitted to the party’s third plenum meeting, the China Business News said yesterday, adding that one of the authors was Liu He (劉鶴), who has a leading role in drafting the official reform plan and is a vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planning agency.
However, several other competing sets of proposals are also expected to be made. Other ideas in the DRC report — which did not have a specific timetable — included publishing officials’ personal assets; restructuring the state-monopoly railway, energy, telecommunications and financial sectors to open them to competition; as well as making the yuan an international currency within 10 years.
Property tax — which is already being collected on a trial basis in some areas — should be rolled out nationwide and become a major source of income for local governments, which should be banned from buying farmers’ land at low prices and reselling it to developers at huge profits, it said.