At least 13 million unregistered Chinese citizens, including illegally-born second children termed as “black children”, will be registered by authorities to ensure they have access to social welfare, the government has announced.
Registering the 13 million people means they will be provided “hukou” or household registration permits, giving them access to free basic education and medical insurance.
Under China’s strict hukou system, citizens without the permit have to pay for social welfare measures that otherwise would be available for free or at basic cost. The permit is tied to the citizens’ place of residence and work.
Besides second children born illegally during the implementation of the one-child policy -- done away with this October -- the 13 million includes orphans, the homeless, those who have yet to apply for the permit and those who have lost theirs.
According to the Institute of Social Development, more than 60% of China’s unregistered citizens fall in the category of “black children”. Then, there are children who do not have the permit because they were abandoned or born out of wedlock.
The number of unregistered citizens could actually be more as the 13 million figure is based on China’s National Population Census of 2010; it is 1% of China’s population.
“Those parents who violated the family planning policy often refrained from getting hukou for their children in order to avoid fines,” official news agency Xinhua said in a report announcing the decision.
The decision was made at a meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping on Wednesday.
“Wednesday’s meeting was told that registration should take place irrespective of family planning and other policy limits, and those without hukou who face difficulties in applying should see their problems solved,” the report added.
The reform of the hukou system, which discouraged citizens from migrating to China’s big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, has been discussed for a few years.
The change in population policy is closely tied to the change in the hukou system.
Since couples are now legally allowed to have two children, it reduces the chances that parents will keep their second child unregistered.
The public security ministry, which deals with China’s internal law, said earlier this year that social instability and inequalities increase among those excluded from the system.
“The research (by the Institute of Social Development) found that unregistered people tend to lack a sense of personal security, as they are excluded from the social security system. Without legal documents that identify them, unregistered people cannot travel long distances easily, which restricts population mobility,” the state-run China Daily said in a report earlier this year.