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China’s Cities See Explosive Growth as Villages Relax Hukou System

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Agriculture has been the traditional occupation in rural China for centuries, but rapid economic growth in China has prompted millions of people to move from rural green areas to ‘concrete jungles’ – the cities where employment is more lucrative.

Although the Hukou system is in place, in which individuals are registered according their birthplace and under residency permit to live there, it is believed to be less disturbed by officials as more cities are allowing farmers for both temporary and permanent work.

This major shift in the working population over the past three decades has lead to explosive growth in the size of towns of China, be it Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou. Migrating rural populations have always found employment in these economic dragons as urbanization and Westernization have led to non-traditional job creation in the infrastructure, housing and commercial building sectors, as well as menial household jobs in affluent urban homes. According to a National Bureau of Statistics report, by the end of 2011, approximately 690 million new urban occupants had arrived, which translated to 51.27 percent of the country’s 1.347 billion population, marking a raise of 21 million from the previous year. This has also lead to drop in rural population by over 14 million to 656 million.

“This is one of history’s most important population shifts,” said Aprodicio Laquian, population expert and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He also added that, “It resembles the 19th century Industrial Revolution in Europe, except that in China it’s being compacted into only a few decades.”

This is a great challenge for China to battle, as agriculture is a very important aspect of the economy and it has to be balanced with modernization and urbanization.

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