China ‘Hukou’ System Deemed Outdated as Way of Controlling Access to Services

The Washington Post looks at how the system impacts people living in cities like who aren’t registered locally:

People who live in a city such as Beijing but do not have a local hukou must travel to their home towns to get a marriage license, apply for a passport or take the national university entrance exam. Parents and students say the last requirement is particularly onerous, especially if a student has to take the exam in a province that uses different textbooks.

Some economists here say the hukou system is outdated and unsuited to a modern economy that requires the free movement of labor. Others call it “China’s apartheid,” saying it has created a two-tiered system of haves and have-nots in all the major cities.

“You have a large number of rural migrants who already earn most of their income in the cities, who have been in the cities a long time, but do not have hukou-related benefits,” said Tao Ran, an economist at Renmin University. “This system is very bad; it’s ridiculous.”

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