On July 30, China’s State Council announced plans to abolish the old residence registration permit—or hukou—that distinguished rural from urban households. The move was long overdue.
The hukou system was enacted in 1958 as away to limit movement between the countryside and cities. At that time, the Chinese Communist Party was explicitly anti-urban and antibusiness. After economic reform began in 1978, the hukou became increasingly anachronistic as millions of migrant workers left farms and villages for new jobs in factories and private companies in the cities. Yet they were penalized because, without local household registration papers, these migrants were denied access to public health care, education, and other social services.