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Household registration is not a new phenomenon in the Peoples’ Republic of China. In ancient China, it started way back during the period between 2100BC- 1600BC. Today this process of registration has spread to Taiwan. In China, household registration involves the process of identifying an individual as a resident of a certain place.
According to Jeffries (121) some of the important information required during this whole process of registration include, name of the person registering, the names of his or her parents, name of his or her spouse, as well as the date of birth. This process is not optional but it is mandatory according to the Chinese constitution.
Significance of the household registration system
However, Wong & Hongyi (212) point out that during the Cold War period in the year 1949, China had a new government that introduced a communist oriented idea. They note that later on, the same regime started a family register so that the government could check the migration of people from the urban to rural areas.
According to Cheek & Saich (106) the aim of the government was to control the number of people who went to the cities to seek employment. In order to achieve this, the government required all the people intending to make a move to towns to seek employment to first seek permission from the local authorities.
He says that if an individual was to be allowed to go to the city to seek employment, then he or she had to have six passes in order to work in other provinces.
Yao (448) contends that this restriction on migration was aimed at ensuring that social stability was maintained in the city. He argues that the government thought that allowing uncontrolled flow of people to the city would lead to emergence of slums that normally houses the unemployed as well as those who are in unskilled category.
In addition he says that the government wanted to ensure that there was no insecurity that may be brought about by lack of job opportunities. To him lack of job opportunity had been found to contribute significantly to the rise of insecurity in many towns in the world and therefore the government wanted to take precautions to avoid such cases being replicated in her towns and therefore introduction of the curfew.
According to Jeffries (115), the government wanted to encourage her people in the rural areas to be creative by using the natural resources available. He notes that China has a great potential to produce agricultural products and therefore the government thought that if more people went to the cities to depend on employment as their source of livelihood, then agricultural production was likely to be affected negatively.
As a result of this he says that China has managed to produce sufficient food to feed her increasing population and also have surplus to export in other countries.
Pickle (127) says that the government wanted to ensure that all areas developed equally. According to him the amount of tax collected in a certain province or region was used to develop that area. As a result he says that the government aimed at encouraging people to develop their areas so that they could stop relying on the central government for all their needs.
He argues that the government usually refused to manage those individuals who used to work outside their designated areas. By so doing, the local government would be seen to be failing in its responsibilities. To them the local government is supposed to cater for the social welfare of the people in their municipalities to avoid creating a vacuum in the distribution and provision of public services.
In addition, Wong & Hongyi (219) point out that the government wanted to improve the human capital in the rural areas. They argue that controlling the movement of people from the rural areas to the urban areas helped them receive occupational training that was initiated by the central government so that they could depend on their work in the rural areas to make the ends meet.
Its implications on the integrity and function of the family
With the introduction of this program, the institution of the family was one of the many areas that were affected. Cheek & Saich (122) says that many family members were separated from each other. According to them, when this process started, those who registered in a different area other than in their home area were forced to remain in their area of registration.
Therefore in case they wanted to visit any of their relatives in a different province, they had to seek permission from the authority. They note that in order to discourage people from moving from one place to another, the local authority was bureaucratic.
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Therefore in order for one to get a clearance from the authority he or she had to visit a number of offices to get cleared. In most cases they argue that many of the applicants gave up and decided to continue living in their designated areas.
Yao (453) says that families in the rural areas were the main victims when famine struck. According to him, as many people tried to move to other areas to look for food, the security detail in most of the entry points denied them access.
As a result many of them died while those who were lucky to survive were deported to their homes. He notes that this was the worst illustration of how much problems this process could bring to the Chinese.
Furthermore, Pickle (132) points out that men and women were forced to do similar jobs. He notes that this was as a result of trying to put food on the table. According to him, prior to the introduction of this program, men and women had their own designated works.
However after the introduction of the program resources became scarce and therefore each one of them had to work hard to lay hands on the few that were available. He calls this as a period of reversed roles.
Although it can be argued that the government wanted to encourage her people on the importance of working hard to sustain themselves by introducing this program, the whole process turned out to be more painful to the people compared to the gains they got.
Therefore, the government could have conducted a feasibility study on this so that such negative effects on the people could be avoided. In addition, confining people in their locality can at times be harmful since such people do not get a chance to socialize with others beyond their boarders.
Therefore in case the government thinks of applying such a program later on in life, it should address the problems that were raised during the first attempt.
Cheek, Timothy & Saich, Tony. New perspectives on state socialism in China. New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1997.
Jeffries, Ian. Economic Developments in Contemporary China. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2009.
Pickle, John. Theorizing transition: the political economy of post-Communist transformations. London: Routledge, 1998.
Wong, John & Hongyi, Lai. China into the Hu-Wen era: policy initiatives and challenges. Singapore: World Scientific, 2006.
Yao, Yang. Reform and Development in China: What Can China Offer the Developing World. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2010.