Economic Migration and Urban Citizenship in China: The Role of Points Systems

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Abstract

The conversion of a hukou (household registration) from one locale to another in China requires official approval, a process subject to conditions set out in numerous regulations. This article examines the role of points systems for selecting economic migrants eligible for an urban hukou in several provinces. Using the points systems, city governments prioritize human resources and capital, which they consider to be the key to economic prosperity, over social objectives. Meanwhile the majority of migrants, who participate in urban employment without official registration, are treated as necessary contributors to the economy but not as qualified beneficiaries of it. It remains to be seen, with a wider application of points systems in more Chinese cities, whether the hukou system will evolve to make urban citizenship less exclusive and more equitable. The article provides detailed examples, at the province and city level, of rating schemes for qualifying for an urban hukou.

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