Beijing's points-based residency permit system discriminatory

A member of a Beijing family leaves their apartment which will be demolished to give way to an expansion plan. Photo: Getty Images

Beijing has rolled out a number of incentives to attract talents by introducing a points-based permanent residency policy, which well-educated, highly skilled migrants could use to become permanent residents in the capital.

Under the points-based system which will take effect next year, migrants who want to apply for household registration in Beijing, or hukou, must meet four essential requirements: they must have residence permits in Beijing; they must be younger than the statutory retirement ages; they must have paid social security premiums in the city for seven consecutive years; and they must have no criminal record.

A permanent residency allows a Beijing resident access to the city's fine public services including healthcare, education and pensions.

Applicants' employment, educational background, accommodation, creativity, tax payment, age, award-winning record and legal compliance will be converted into certain points under the points-based system, which will be the replacement for the existing annual quota scheme, under which employees hired by government agencies or state-owned enterprises and fresh graduates working for qualified companies are mainly allowed to apply for Beijing hukou.

It is worth mentioning that the points-based system gives priority to applicants with higher academic degrees. An applicant with a technical degree will be given 10.5 points, bachelor's degree 15 points, master's degree 26 points and doctoral degree 37 points, according to the points-based policy.

The number of points that an applicant must have to be awarded with Beijing citizenship every year is flexible, as the figure will be decided based on the city's annual population control target, said officials with the Beijing municipal government.

Analysts said that the points-based system is transparent enough but is still badly in favor of top talents, leaving under-educated migrants in a much more difficult situation. They also estimated that less than 10,000 migrants will be awarded with Beijing hukou every year under the strict points-based policy.

"Applicants who are aged under 45, have received higher education, have their own business or pay more taxes will very likely be the group selected by the points-based system," said Zhang Hui, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Fiscal Sciences.

She said that such a group of people who are basically elites working in the hi-tech and financial sectors will make greater contributions to Beijing's economy. "The introduction of the points-based policy is the first step taken by Beijing in its competition with other Chinese cities and foreign countries for top talents."

As the rigid household registration system has long impeded the mobility of talents across China, Beijing has joined the ranks of Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, which have adopted similar points-based policy to lure high-end professionals and highly-skilled workers.

In June, the Beijing municipal government released a document listing the backbone employees of hi-tech and innovation-based enterprises into the category that would be favored in its points-based scheme.

Besides this, China's Ministry of Public Security has also released new policies to make it easier for foreign talents and professionals in Beijing to obtain permanent residency status.

Earlier this year, the Permanent Residence Service Center for Foreigners in Zhongguancun was established as a pilot project to offer green card services to high-level foreign talents in the Zhongguancun National Demonstration Zone (ZNDZ), foreign employees hired by ZNDZ-based startups, foreign technicians working for ZNDZ-based enterprises, and overseas Chinese with a doctor's degree or a higher degree employed by ZNDZ-based companies.

However, Beijing's effort to attract domestic and global talents has been derided by some experts, who argue that it will hurt the capital's development as a balanced economy and marginalize migrant workers in the labor-intensive industries.

"The thresholds to get a Beijing hukou set by the points-based system are too high, especially for those who are not highly skilled," said Lu Ming, an economics professor at Shanghai Jiaotong University.

Lu pointed out that a certain proportion of high-end and low-end workers should be maintained in a city in order to ensure complementarity in the process of production, while dismissing the view that a highly developed city does not need under-educated migrant workers.

The professor labeled Beijing's points-based policy as discriminatory against the under-educated migrants, saying that the growth of population should be determined by reasonable human resources allocation based on the market rules.

The Beijing municipal government has announced its plans to cap the city's population at 23 million by 2020. The city's permanent residents have surpassed 21 million.


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