Policies Towards Migrants in the Yangtze River Delta Urban Region, China

Does Local Hukou Still Matter after the Hukou Reform?

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The 2014 hukou reform introduced by the Chinese central government was a turning point in China’s policies towards migration. Different from the previous hukou policies, which were largely exclusionary, the reformed policy encouraged migrants to permanently settle in their destination cities and make use of the public services available there. However, the actual results and consequences of this policy seem to vary between cities. This is due to the fact that Chinese municipal governments still have their own discretionary power when it comes to defining the criteria for accessing a local hukou. This raises the question of what the real impact of the hukou policy reform has been. This paper attempts to answer this question. It starts with a hukou access policy analysis of 20 different cities in the Yangtze River delta urban region. This analysis shows that the strictness of the local hukou access policy is related to city specific factors such as economic strength, share of migrant population, and population size. In the second part of the paper, we examine the impact of local hukou access policies on the intentions of migrants. Based on two logistic regression models, we find that the stricter the local hukou access policy is, the more willing migrants are to convert their current hukou into a local hukou. Furthermore, we observed that the settlement intention of migrants has a V-shaped rather than a linear relation with the strictness of local hukou access policies. Cities with relatively loose and cities with relatively strict hukou access policies are more desired as permanent settlement location than cities with moderately strict hukou access policies.