China's Household Registration (Hukou) System: Discrimination and Reform

2168 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 | Friday, September 2, 2005 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Transcript (PDF) (Text)

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China held another in its series of staff-led Issues Roundtables, entitled "China's Household Registration (Hukou) System: Discrimination and Reform" on Friday, September 2, from 2:00 - 3:30 PM in Room 2168 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

China’s hukou (household registration) system has imposed strict limits on ordinary Chinese citizens changing their permanent place of residence since it was instituted in the 1950s. Beginning with the reform period in the late 1970s and accelerating during the late 1990s, economic privatization and government reforms weakened hukou limits on internal migration. Up to 150 million rural residents have since migrated to Chinese cities for work in one of the largest migrations in human history.

Despite reforms to the hukou system, restrictions continue to affect the lives of Chinese migrants. Employment, housing, and social benefits are commonly linked to hukou identification. Rural migrants to urban areas are often unable to obtain equal access to public services such as health care and education. Continued hukou restrictions may be fueling the emergence of an excluded migrant population in China’s urban areas.

This Roundtable examined the role of the hukou system in Chinese society, its impact on Chinese migrants, and the effect of recent reforms.


Dr. Fei-Ling Wang, Professor, The Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology

Ms. Chloé Froissart, Ph.D. candidate, Institute of Political Science of Paris, affiliated to the Center for International Studies and Research; Research Fellow, French Center for Research on Contemporary China