An excellent BBC Radio 4 programme about the impact on Chinese economic migrants of the Hukou ‘class system’ residency permits in their country. The permit states that a person is officially from a particular region, and this has had a major impact on migrant workers when they move to a city. Not being a local means that you are denied state help to pay for education for your children or medical care if you become ill.
This has resulted in strikes and riots by migrants who believe that they are not sharing in the wealth they are helping to create. China’s economic rise has been based on the availability of cheap labour migrating from towns and villages to work in urban factories, so the country’s prosperity relies on the very people that are being targeted.
The programme focuses on the megacity of Guangzhou – with a population of nearly 13 million people. Thinking more broadly than just China, as more of these urban areas emerge, both regional and / or national governments are going to have to bear in mind that when they are dealing with policies that discriminate (even unintentionally) they risk alienating huge numbers of people. In today’s world, unrest will soon follow.
• BBC Radio 4: Crossing Continents – China’s Migrant Worker Mega-City