Authorities in Guangzhou moved to tighten their management of more than 7 million migrant workers who do not hold local hukou by launching an intense round of residence permit checks.
An official with the Guangzhou Migrant Population Administration said the drive is part of government efforts to gain better knowledge of the conditions of the city’s migrant population so as to provide the appropriate social welfare, Guangzhou Daily reported.
The campaign coincides with a protest by migrant workers that was triggered by a labor dispute in Chaozhou, another city in Guangdong earlier this week, and comes amid stepped-up security measures as the province gears up for the Shenzhen Universiade in August. But authorities did not say the latest move came out of security concerns.
Those without permits will find it more difficult to rent a home or land a job and be fined 50 Chinese yuan ($7.72). Providing false personal information to the administration can incur a 500 yuan fine.
Landlords will be fined 1,000 yuan for accommodating each non-local without the proper documentation, in addition to three times the monthly rent. Homeowners in Guangzhou will also face punishments that are harsher than those outlined in national and provincial regulations, facing detention if a crime is committed by tenants or a fire emergency occurs in the property.
Employers recruiting unregistered migrants are required to process the registration in a short time or be fined 500 yuan for each worker.
Guangdong inaugurated the residence permit system last year, in which the local Migrant Population Administration issued certificates to non-Guangdong hukou holders as identification.
Migrants need to hand in an identity card, health certificate, rental address or owned properties, and certificate of marital status to apply for a residence permit at local sub-district committees.
This time, obtaining the certificate in Guangzhou will be mandatory. The first thing out-of-towners have to do upon their arrival in the city is to voluntarily register at a local Migrant Population Administration and be issued a residence permit, city authorities ordered.
The son of a worker from Sichuan Province was injured by his employer in Chaozhou for demanding unpaid wages earlier this month, which led to violent protests Monday by migrants from the same province also working in the area.
The incident has been resolved and more than 10 government teams have been sent to each village in the area to quell public anger and to dismiss rumors, a local publicity official surnamed Cai told the Global Times.
Guangdong, which is home to thousands of factories, is a popular destination for migrant workers. The province is now home to more than 30 million residents who do not hold a hukou.
Guangdong has been making moves to improve its management of migrant workers. Prior to the residence permit system being introduced in January 1, 2010, the temporary residence was the only form of identification for non-locals.
The registration of residence permits is free of charge, but starting from the seventh month after registration, people will need to pay 2 yuan every month for social services.
Coming with the new certificate is a variety of services that were previously only enjoyed by locals, officials say. The residence permit is key to a series of welfare benefits for out-of-towners, including education, free inoculation, disease prevention, employment guidance, job training, and legal and community services.
Migrants in Guangzhou can also apply for driving licenses and process travel permits to Hong Kong and Macao and enjoy public medical insurance. More services are pending, officials say.
However, these benefits do not appear so attractive to Yang Yunfan, a Guangzhou office worker from Hubei Province. “In order to encourage people to register and apply for the residence permit, the Guangzhou government handed out a package of gifts including 50 yuan in transport subsidies during the Asian Games last year,” Yang said.
But one-and-a-half years after its inauguration she is still without the permit, since the administration only opens on regular workdays and she is unable to take a day off from work.
Migrant population management is a major challenge for big cities, as the “floating population” has exceeded 261 million nationwide, 81 percent more than 10 years ago, according to figures released from the latest population census earlier this year.
However, migrants seem to be unwelcome by some officials due to their high mobility.
Shenzhen, another metropolis in Guangdong, last month expelled 800,000 “high-risk people,” mostly migrant workers, to ensure what they called a “peaceful Universiade,” due to open on August 12.
It is necessary for cities crowded with migrant workers to ensure the floating population is registered, Duan Chengrong, a demographics professor at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times. But authorities should also provide equal or even preferential policies to encourage people to register, he added.
“Good services would enable convenient and efficient government management in the registration,” Duan said. “It also lets you judge whether the latest residence permit is better or not than the previous one.”
Foreigners are not subject to the residence permit system for Chinese migrants.