BEIJING, July 30 (Xinhua) -- China plans to help about 100 million people settle in towns and cities by 2020, as the dual household registration system is phased out, the State Council, China's cabinet, said on Wednesday.
A circular on the household registration - "hukou"- system said the government will remove limits in townships and small cities, relax restrictions in medium-sized cities, and set qualifications for big cities, putting an end to the system which has divided the nation into rural and urban populations since the 1950s.
The rights and benefits of residents who do not have hukou in the city where they live should be safeguarded, the document added.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Vice Public Security Minister Huang Ming said different approaches will be applied based on the size and population of a city.
Authorities will set no limits for those who want to settle in small cities and towns. "Anyone who has a legal residence can register for permanent residence, even temporary tenants," Huang said.
Medium-sized cities with a population between one million and three million will have a low threshold, while megacities with more than five million residents will try to strictly control the influx of new citizens.
People wishing to settle in megacities like Beijing and Shanghai will have to qualify through a "points system" based on their seniority in employment, their accommodation and social security.
Megacities "face a lot population pressure, with an annual floating population of hundreds of thousands," the official said.
Currently, citizens without urban hukou do not enjoy equal access to public services in cities, as subsidized social services including health, housing, education or pensions are linked to hukou.
Citizens' will must be respected, and rural residents must not be 'compelled' to go to cities. The cities' development level and capacity should also be taken into account, Huang said.
However, he also stressed that the 110 million is a flexible target and an actual number of new urbanites slightly below or beyond it will be acceptable.
"For megacities, it is also necessary to divert some of their functions to their hinterlands to optimize their population structures," he said.
Official data showed that China had 166 million migrant workers who worked in cities and towns away from their home by the end of last year. This figure increased to 174 million by the end of the June.