Car-hailing regulation shouldn’t deepen hukou divide

By Wang Wenwen Source:Global Times Published: 2016/10/9 23:58:39 Last Updated: 2016/10/10 0:03:39

Regulators in four Chinese mega-cities, namely Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, issued draft policies on Saturday for the ride-hailing industry, which may make it tougher for the industry to recruit drivers.

Among the four, Beijing and Shanghai may require drivers to have local household registration, or a hukou, which will ban non-locals from offering ride-hailing services. The cities also ask the drivers to operate only locally registered cars.

The restriction is expected to result in a significant decrease in the number of drivers, and it has caused a stir among the public about China's stern hukou system.

The decades-long system has created a two-tier class system in the country's big cities like Beijing and Shanghai - those with hukou and those without. As benefits like public schools, healthcare and social security are closely connected to people's hukou, the system has made life difficult for non-locals who, however, are the backbone of China's urbanization and economic boom.

The Chinese leadership has put the hukou issue top of the reform agenda to ensure social fairness, while solving the issue has been a recurring theme.

In 2014, the State Council announced that it would grant residence permits to 100 million permanent urban residents by 2020. By the end of last month, about 30 province-level regions had unveiled plans on the reform of the hukou system, including Beijing.

Nonetheless, the message that comes through loud and clear from the latest ride-hailing draft rules is that the hukou system still serves as a barrier to realize fairness in the job markets of big cities.

Back in 2013, China's first lawsuit against hukou discrimination emerged, in which a graduate from Anhui Province sued the Nanjing Municipal Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security. The bureau required applicants to have a Nanjing hukou to work as a telephone consultant, for which the graduate was turned down for the job. She sued the bureau on the basis that a hukou should not be a criteria used to judge a person's suitability for a job. She was eventually awarded 11,000 yuan ($1,649) in compensation.

Car-hailing drivers in Beijing and Shanghai may argue that having a local household registration has nothing to do with their skills to drive a car. The draft regulations, if passed, will be another example of unfairness in the job market.

It is understandable that the regulations are aimed at addressing the cities' growing populations and overcrowded roads. But the government needs to bear the hukou issue in mind when working out policies. When addressing a thorny issue, it should avoid making the hukou problem a thornier one.

Posted in: Observer

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