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China eyes residence permits to replace divisive hukou system

Published on Mar 6, 2013 3:29 PM

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's new leaders are planning a system of national residence permits to replace the household registration or 'hukou' regime, a government source said, a vital reform that will boost its urbanisation campaign and drive consumption-led growth.

The hukou system, which dates to 1958, has split China's 1.3 billion people along urban-rural lines, preventing many of the roughly 800 million Chinese who are registered as rural residents from settling in cities and enjoying basic urban welfare and services.

Critics have called for changes for years and a government researcher told Reuters a "unified national residence permit system" would be adopted as policy in a document to be published after the current annual session of parliament.

Benefits and entitlement under the new system would be"basically equal", he said, although the changes would be eased in slowly. He did not say how long it would take.

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