Policies Review on Urban and Rural Household Registration System Reform in China

Policies Review on Urban and Rural Household Registration System Reform in China

Published: 2015.09.23
Accepted: 2015.09.23
Assistant Professor
School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Renmin University of China


Historically, China’s urban and rural household registration system is the inevitable choice under the policy of heavy industry priority development strategy .With the completion of primitive accumulation of capital and the deepening of Reform and Opening, a large number of rural laborers have departed from the countryside, deviated from the land, and made a huge contribution to urban construction and development. The traditional urban and rural household registration system has become the institutional hindrance to on China’s urbanization.

1. History of Chinese Urban-Rural Household Registration System

Promulgated in January 1958, "People's Republic of China Residence Registration Management Regulations", clearly defined the restrictions of migration in the form of national legislation, division of the agricultural population and non-agricultural population, which provides that citizens migrating from rural to urban areas are subject to strict control, except on matters pertaining to studies, recruitment, army and other circumstances. Since then, the urban-rural dividing household registration system was born in China.  In 1977, the State Council approved the "Ministry of Public Security regulations on the handling of the account migration" which was proposed as a control "rural" measure strictly for the first time, which marks the Residence Registration system as the main barriers to rural-urban migration, the urban and rural household registration system was finally established.

2. Policies during Reform and Opening Period

After the Reform and Opening, in order to meet the requirements of the market economy, policies to limit population movements were gradually eased out. In 1984, the State Council issued notice a stating that "the farmers enter the town and settle the issue of notice", with eased restrictions of the "rural" area for first time, allowing "self rations" to enter the town. In 1992 Ministry of Public Security issued a notice, which  decided to carry out effective local urban Residence Registration system in towns, special economic zones, economic development zones and high-tech industrial development zone. In 1993, the government fully liberalized the grain market, abolished food stamps, and cancelled the rules that taking grain as the standard division of agricultural and non-agricultural household in 1994, replaced the rules that distinct agricultural and non-agricultural population according to residence and occupation, and to establish a permanent residence, temporary residence, lodging three management accounts form the basis of population registration system. In June 1997, "the State Council approved the Ministry of Public small towns household registration system reform program and advice on improving rural household registration management system notice" issued, provisions regarding small town employment, housing, and meet certain conditions of the rural population, who can apply for permanent residence.

Since 2000, from the central government to local government, household registration system reform were very fervent, but progress was not satisfied, the first ten years of  the 21st century, the large-scale population flowing from rural to urban did not bring about breakthroughs in reform of the household registration system fundamentally, until November 2013, the Eighth Session of the Third Plenary set the goal of the household registration system reform. "CPC Central Committee on the overall number of major issues of deepening reform," pointed out that "innovating population management, accelerating the reform of the household registration system, fully liberalizing residence registration restraints in towns and small cities, orderly liberalizing residence registration restraints in medium-sized cities, reasonably determining cities settled conditions, strictly controlling the population scale of megalopolis.”

3. Opinions on Further Reform of Household Registration System in 2014

After a year of deliberation, July 31, 2014, the State Council issued "Opinions on further reform of household registration system" (hereinafter referred to as "The Opinions"), the guideline on the reform of household registration, pointed that "coordinating household registration system reform and the associated economic and social fields reform, guiding agricultural population to immigrate to cities and towns orderly, transferring agricultural population to citizen.” “The Opinions" cleared the elimination difference of agricultural and non-agricultural household registration , blue print and other account types which are derived from this consequence, unified registered as residents.The reform focused on innovation and population management, that "the establishment of a unified household registration system", marking the household registration management mode divided "agriculture" and "non-agricultural" for half a century will disappear in the stage of China’s history.

The director of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Research Office Economic and Social Construction ZhongJun believes in solving the problem of urban and rural barriers, the elimination of agricultural and non-agricultural household registration boundaries household registration  reform is a big step forward, not only meaningful in form, as well as the elimination of rural discrimination. Society and vice president of Renmin University of China DuanRong pointed out that demographic, factors which will fundamentally affect people's lives and the expected long-term arrangements, thus fundamentally changing the way people live, including consumer behavior, able to put between urban and rural areas internal entire inventory of them, such flows bring vitality to the whole society, to create more opportunities for people to improve people's positive spirit.

"The Opinions" that should fully respect the wishes of the agricultural transfer of population, protect their legitimate rights and interests. File clear requirements, "adhere to the law, voluntary and paid, and guide the orderly transfer of population transfer of agricultural land contract and management rights. City settled if farmers paid to exit the" three rights, which "should be based on the spirit of the Third Plenary Session of the Party's eighth in pilot under the premise of respecting the wishes of farmers. At this stage, may not quit the land contract and management rights, land use rights, the right to collective income distribution as a condition of farmers settled into the city. "settled into the city, regardless of whether paid farmers to exit the" three rights ", compensation standards or rules, must respect the wishes of farmers, which is eighteen Third Plenary Session and the "opinions" of the principle of emphasis. New urbanization is a gradual process, farmers first need to get a stable income from land and property rights, which must first go through a long and complicated process. On this basis, the new migrant can gradually adapt to the city's work and life, and may be willing to give up the "three rights." From the perspective of maintaining social stability, this provision is necessary, correct, rural land should belong to limit specific people and not their residence. After the household registration system plays only functions of population management, it should not be bundled with rights and public services, and rural land property rights should also be decoupled. Some local governments, such as the "land for social security, land for household" and other attempts, although in some areas this exchange appears to be in stable, but there were many acts such as forced exchange, forced land acquisition and other violations of the rights and interests of farmers, According to statistics, up to 90% of the interviewed farmers do not want to pay to exchange non-agricultural accounts. Central Rural Work Leading Group Office of the Deputy Secretary Zhao said, "document was presented at this stage may not quit the land contract and management rights, land use rights, the right to collective income distribution as a condition of farmers settled into the city to retain the three migrant other rights, is to let them have a way forward and backward, so that the urbanization process becomes smoother.”


A unified household registration system has a historical necessity, and is inevitable, but we cannot talk household registration reform just on the reform of the household registration system of household registration. It needs to carry out rural land, protection, welfare, public services, employment and other institutional support and linkage reforms. Otherwise, the household registration reform will inevitably become a mere formality and dampen the enthusiasm of farmers in the city.


  • Peng Xiaohui, Shi Qinghua: "History of the urban and rural household registration reform path and Revelation," "Modern Economic Research" 2013 Section 8.
  • Wei Xue: "hukou reform on three major issues: employment, land and public services", "China Economic Times" 006 Edition 3 September 2014.
  • Lin Yuan, Li Tangning: "Household Forced to change start or accelerate land reform", "Economic Information Daily" August 4, 2014.
  • Ma Xueling, Kan Feng: "comprehensive reform of China's household registration system reform route curtain was five highlights", "China News" July 31, 2014.
  • State Department "to further promote the reform of household registration system view", Guo Fa [2014] No. 25.

Date submitted: Sept. 21, 2015

Reviewed, edited and uploaded: Sept. 23, 2015