BEIJING • China will give household registration permits to its millions of unregistered citizens and make medical insurance coverage more equal, the government said, as it looks to overhaul systems often under fire for failing those most in need.
An estimated 13 million Chinese, or 1 per cent of the country's total population, do not have proper household registration permits, or "hukou".
Some of them are orphans, but many more are people born in violation of the highly controversial "one-child policy", which restricted most couples to only one offspring, and barred any more from being registered unless their parents paid a hefty fine, which many could not afford.
Known as "black children", they are unable to go to school or obtain formal employment, and often have problems travelling, among other difficulties. Hukou permits are needed if a person wishes to marry, open a bank account, take out medical insurance and get access to basic education.
BASIC LEGAL RIGHT
It is a basic legal right for citizens to lawfully register for hukou. It is also a premise for citizens to participate in social affairs, enjoy rights and fulfil duties. We will deal with and protect every citizen's rights to permanent hukou registration according to the law.
STATEMENT RELEASED VIA XINHUA
The ruling Chinese Communist Party announced in October it was reforming the family planning policy to allow couples to have two children after decades of the one-child policy, a move aimed at alleviating demographic strains on the economy.
A statement released by the official Xinhua news agency said the government promised to "fully resolve the hukou registration problem for unregistered people" at a meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping on Wednesday .
"It is a basic legal right for citizens to lawfully register for hukou," the statement said.
"It is also a premise for citizens to participate in social affairs, enjoy rights and fulfil duties. We will deal with and protect every citizen's rights to permanent hukou registration according to the law," it added.
Enforcement of the family planning policy has always varied across China, and a few local authorities have already said they will start granting hukou to people whose parents have not paid the fines.
But the new policy will still have to be implemented area by area, and some families have previously complained that no changes have been made "on the ground" no matter what reforms were promised by higher officials.
Xinhua also said China had approved plans to merge its two medical insurance schemes for urban and rural residents, aiming to give more equal access to healthcare. Rural primary care currently lags far behind levels in major cities.
China says it offers health insurance to almost all of its near 1.4 billion people, but the schemes still often require patients to pay large amounts out of pocket, a major pressure on families, especially with diseases such as cancer.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS