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Chinese Migrants: The Hukou System

The term hukou (pronounced who-koh) refers to China’s household-registration system, which defines access to welfare. Required by law since 1958, the system records every Chinese citizen as a permanent resident of a particular city or county. Before 1980, citizens were strictly required to stay in the neighborhood of birth and could not seek employment or education elsewhere in the country.
Dating back to China’s ancient ‘class-system’ permits, the hukou system was originally intended to register people and deliver them appropriate social services. A more lenient version of the regulations persists today, requiring any Chinese citizen staying outside of their hukou for longer than 3 months to apply for a temporary residency, involving a working contract and extensive paperwork. Rural migrants desiring to relocate to cities still encounter many difficulties including qualifications and contract hurdles.
“Illegal” rural migrants without a temporary permit, are fully in the hands of their employers…