In April this year, the Beijing points-based Household Registration Operation Management Rules (for Trial Implementation) (hereinafter referred to as the “Rules”) has received much attention since its official release. At 24 o’clock of June 14, the first batch of points-based applications for household registration officially came to an end. This year, a total of 124,657 people in Beijing have submitted their applications upon review by their respective employers and entered the data verification stage. The initial verification results will be released after July 31. This marks a substantial step for Beijing in its points-based household registration policy.
Ye Yumin, Executive Dean of the Capital Academy of Development and Strategy, RUC, said in an exclusive interview with the China Economic Times reporter that the Rules highlights Beijing as a national science and technology innovation center and that its orientation to become a world high-tech industry innovation and development highland can, to some extent, positively drive the reform of the household registration system. Ye advised to enhance scale control appropriately to make breakthroughs in points-based household registration.
The Rules is highly operational. The effect of promoting household registration reform is limited by scale.
China Economic Times: In July 2014, the State Council issued the Opinions on Further Promotion of Reform of the Household Registration System, and after that, a number of first-tier cities successively issued similar opinions or points-based household registration methods, so, what is the background of these policy measures?
Ye Yumin: First of all, in recent years, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen have successively introduced reform policies on household registration system and methods for points-based household registration. This demonstrates the implementation by first-tier cities of the documents related to the reform of the household registration system released by the Party Central Committee and the State Council. Reform of the household registration system is an area with relatively slow reform and innovation progress in the past 40 years since the reform and opening up. It has become an important institutional obstacle that restricts the industrial structure upgrading and social harmonious development of China, especially its large cities. The Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Some Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Deepening the Reform adopted at the Third Plenary Session of the Eighteenth Central Committee of the CPC clearly stated that “we will help the eligible population to move away from agriculture and become urban residents.” In July 2014, the State Council promulgated the Opinions on Further Promotion of Reform of the Household Registration System, after which the Party Central Committee and the State Council successively issued a number of related policies aimed at promoting the reform of the household registration system and the process of urbanization. In order to implement the above spirit, each first-tier city has successively introduced relevant household registration system reform policies.
Secondly, promoting the reform of the household registration system in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen is also an urgent need for urban development. The lag in the reform of the household registration system in China has brought about serious economic and social problems, especially in the first-tier cities. The lack of orderly governance of large-scale non-registered migrants leads to insufficient training of talents and high-quality labor, seriously lagged human capital accumulation, low social identification, and difficulties in managing urban villages in rural-urban fringe zones of megacities. Challenges posed to megacities by the quality and structural problems are far beyond the issue of scale. Therefore, first-tier cities need to build a new urban population governance order through the reform of the household registration system.
China Economic Times: Under the background of strictly controlling the population size of megacities and relieving Beijing of functions non-essential to its role as the capital, what is the purpose and significance of the release of the Rules? Has it played a certain role in promoting the reform of the household registration system?
Ye Yumin: In August 2016, Beijing issued the Management Methods for points-based Household Registration (for Trial Implementation) (hereinafter referred to as the “Methods”), which stipulated the purpose, principles, application conditions and point indicators of this points-based household registration system. However, the Methods are relatively general and lack operability. The Rules issued this year has clearly explained and defined the point indicators, detailed the procedures and the required materials to handle points-based household registration, and also divided the responsibilities of relevant departments in the process of points-based household registration so that this system is truly operable and is of positive significance to the implementation of the Methods.
The Rules plays a certain role in the reform of the household registration system. It helps the working-age population who have a college diploma or above, a legal and stable job and a legal and stable residence, and a record of payment of social insurance for more than 7 years to create conditions to increase their points and settle down.
However, due to the following two reasons, the role of the Rules in promoting the reform of the household registration system is restricted: First, the Rules has a strict explanation of the relevant point indicators, especially the explanation of “legal and stable residence,” resulting in the ineligibility of residents who currently live in non-registered buildings of urban villages. However, these buildings house a large proportion of non-registered residents, which is still far away from fulfilling the requirement of “adjusting and improving household registration policies in supercities and megacities, and focusing on addressing settlement issues for ordinary eligible workers” in the Notice on Issuing the Program to Promote 100 Million Non-registered Population to Settle Down in Cities promulgated by the General Office of the State Council in 2016. Second, Article 9 of the Rules stipulates that “Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform and Beijing Municipal Human Resources and Social Security Bureau, in conjunction with relevant departments, shall study and propose annual settlement points according to the annual population control situation, and report the points to the municipal government for approval and subsequent release.” There is no stipulation on the scale of annual points-based household registration in the Rules, instead, the scale is determined based on the population control situation in the year concerned. On the issue of the reform of the household registration system, scale determines the extent of efforts. Without a defined scale, reform efforts are hard to be determined. So far, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou have been using the total volume control method for points-based household registration. From 2011 to 2015, Shanghai had a total of 26,000 people who applied for the Shanghai municipal permanent residence through the Shanghai Residence Permit, with the annual settlement target being more than 5,000 per year; in 2017, Guangzhou had a points-based settlement target of 6,000, and Shenzhen had a target of 10,000. Take Guangzhou for example, with its 6 million or so non-registered permanent residents, and according to the settlement target of 6,000 in 2017, it takes 1,000 years to complete their household registration. In 2018, the number of applicants for points-based household registration in Beijing has reached 124,000 so far, but how many applicants will eventually get registered remains to be expected.
Moderate relaxation of scale control
China Economic Times: Given the points policies in the three first-tier cities of Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, please interpret and comment on the main point indicators and the setting of point values in the Rules.
Ye Yumin: In terms of the basic conditions, in comparison, the application threshold for points-based settlement in Beijing is relatively lower. In addition to requiring continuous payment of social insurance in Beijing for more than 7 years, other conditions are relatively loose. There are no requirements on family planning compliance or professional qualification, and age requirements are relatively loose. For example, Beijing allows people under the legal retirement age to participate in the points system, while Guangzhou requires that the age shall not exceed 45 years old, and Shenzhen requires that men should be under 55 and women under 50.
Seen from the structure of points, Beijing’s point indicators have a complex structure. Indicators in Beijing fall into 9 categories and 13 sub-categories. The 9 categories include legal and stable employment, legal and stable residence, educational background, living and working area, innovation and entrepreneurship, taxation, age, honors and awards, and criminal record. Guangzhou has 7 categories of indicators, including educational degree, technical ability, urgently needed vocational qualifications, social services, taxation, innovation and entrepreneurship, and living and working area. Indicators in Shanghai are divided into 3 categories and 12 sub-categories, all with a clear orientation. The 3 categories include basic indicators, point addition indicators, and point deduction indicators. Shenzhen’s points structure is the simplest, including stable residence, stable employment, and integrity and criminal record. It is simple and easy. The extent to which points are deducted for integrity and criminal record is the largest, highlighting the orientation towards fairness and integrity in social construction in the new era.
Seen from the orientation of points, Beijing, like Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, are biased towards such conditions as education, technical qualifications, innovation and entrepreneurship, and taxation. These conditions constitute the main source of points. Each city has set different point values, which can not be compared on an absolute value basis. If we compare the education points with the taxation points, we can conclude certain findings. In Beijing, 6 points will be given for a consecutive 3 years of tax payment that averages at 100,000 yuan. This is equivalent to 60% of college degree points. In Shanghai, an average tax payment of 100,000 yuan for 3 consecutive years can get a maximum of 100 points for every 100,000 yuan of tax payment, that is, a maximum of 300 points in 3 years. This is equivalent to 6 times the size of college degree points. In Guangzhou, a 3 consecutive years of tax payment that totals more than 100,000 yuan can get 20 points, equivalent to 50% of college degree points. Seen from the relative importance of the share of points, Shanghai is more inclined to a capital orientation, while Beijing and Guangzhou are more education-oriented. Relatively speaking, Shenzhen’s points structure is relatively fair, and is conducive to “addressing settlement issues for ordinary eligible workers.”
Compared with other cities, Beijing pays more attention to innovation and entrepreneurship points. The sector has a refined design, including academic awards, corporate management performance, innovative research and development, and innovative investment. This highlights Beijing as a national science and technology innovation center and its orientation to become the world’s high-tech industry innovation and development highland.
Objectively speaking, for a supercity, a household registration system that leans towards high school or college degrees or above is understandable under the background of orderly advancement of this system. However, the scale control should be appropriately relaxed, which is the key to making breakthroughs in the reform of points-based household registration.
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