Between 2000 and 2010, China’s population increased by 6 percent. The story was different in the major cities. Beijing’s population, for instance, rose by more than 40 percent, to 20 million, with most of that growth due to rural-to-urban migration. The surge in the capital’s number of migrant residents, which has abated only recently, added to problems like air pollution and traffic congestion.
So now Beijing is looking to cap its population, currently estimated at more than 21 million, at 23 million by 2020. In particular, the city is targeting the eight million migrants who make the capital their home. Last year, for instance, Beijing reduced its number of incoming migrants by half.
It thus seems counterintuitive that the city recently announced plans for a new points-based residency system that gives its migrant population the chance to achieve household registration, or hukou. Holders of hukou enjoy residency status, which gives them benefits such as health care and public schooling for their children. The new system allows migrants to be considered for this coveted status if they rack up enough points.
Yet the system, which is similar to ones already in use in Chinese megacities like Shanghai and Guangzhou, is stacked in favor of well-educated elites. In addition to requirements including formal employment and payment into local social security funds for seven consecutive years, migrants gain points for advanced degrees or awards in national competitions in fields such as technology or culture. For example, an applicant receives 15 points for a bachelor’s degree, 26 for a master’s, and 37 for a doctorate.