The Household Registration System (Hukou)

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The Household Registration System (Hukou)

China, the World’s fastest growing economic country composing of more than 1.3 billion inhabitants. With such a large population, it is necessary to have a well-organized system to manage the country. Household Registration System or Hukou is the answer. It is one of the basic social management mechanisms in all countries. China manages its population of about 1.3 billion mainly through the household registration mechanism. The Hukou System is simply like a passport in those developed countries like in European Union. Someone who has a passport can go to many other countries without a visa, but restricted in other countries as one is not the citizen of that country. Similar to that, in China every legal citizen has his or her Hukou. A passport presents the nationality of a person, while Hukou presents the living or working place one person belongs to. So people living in the countryside have what’s called rural Hukou, while people living in city have an urban Hukou. Without such registration, Chinese citizens would be able to move everywhere inside China. But due to the existence of Hukou itself, the movement of people from one area to another is somewhat difficult and somehow restricted in many aspects in order to stay in a new place. However, Hukou is still considered as such a vital system to control migration inside China by preventing an excessive migrants or labor forces from rural area into some big cities and has existed in China for decades of years with some appropriate adjustment. Brief History of Hukou System

During the pre-reform period, the central government formed and pursued a development strategy that mainly focused on the development of the heavy industry, which is the root for China’s rural-urban divide. This strategy aimed at achieving rapid industrialization by pulling out the agricultural surplus for capital expansion in industries and for supporting urban-based subsidies. The main enforcement mechanisms included the Unified Procurement and Unified Sale of agricultural commodities, the People’s Communes, and the Household Registration System (Hukou). Not long after the founding of the People’s Republic, the state acquired agricultural products with lower prices in the commodity markets. When the purchases became increasingly difficult in 1953, the state initiated the Unified Purchase and Unified Sale system with its completion occurring in 1958. Under this system, the government monopolized the whole process of production and procurement of agricultural commodities in rural areas and, at the same time, controlled the distribution of food and other agricultural products through rations in cities. Because this system lowered the cost of living in urban regions, the government had to implement corresponding policies to control the labor movements. At that time, the People’s Communes were already established, which became effective institutions for carrying out the government’s economic as well as administrative plans. Because the control of labor flows was a key link for implementing the development strategy, a formal system of Household Registration System was established in the late 1950s that in effect designated the legal place of residency and work for the entire population.

The Chinese Household Registration System (Hukou)

In 1955, as one of its procedures for setting administrative control, the new Chinese Communist government established the Household Registration System, which is still in place today. All households were registered in the locale where they resided and also were categorized as either agricultural or non-agricultural households. The installation of the hukou system reflected an effort on the part of the government to cope with demographic pressures created by China’s rapid industrialization. After the civil war and two ensuing years of economic rehabilitation (1950-1952), millions of peasants...
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