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October 12, 2011

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Driving schools' quota 'unfair'

SHANGHAI residents from other areas have branded as unfair a new restriction preventing them from getting a driving license in the city.

And driving schools have also slammed the regulations which they say will see them lose money as they are having to turn away customers.

The countrywide restriction introduced this week by the Ministry of Public Security is intended to control the volume of traffic in cities.

In Shanghai, city dwellers without permanent residency - known as hukou - cannot this month apply to attend driving school, which is required for applying for a driving license.

More than 9 million migrants stay in Shanghai, about 40 percent of the population.

"That's unfair," said a man, surnamed Zhu, a Guangdong Province native, who has a job in Shanghai and wants to learn to drive.

Zhu sees this as another slight against non-local residents. He graduated from a city university and earns a decent salary, but because he does not have a hukou he is not entitled to the full social welfare system. He asked: "Why are we always left behind? We also pay taxes to the city."

Now people like Zhu must go to back to their hometown to learn. He was turned away by local driving schools that stopped receiving out-of-town learners after the National Day holiday.

"We have no choice," said a manager with local Bashi Driving School "We will lose money on that."

Out-of-towners must wait to see if places become available in the coming months.

Local traffic authorities ruled that the number of out-of-town residents should not surpass 45 percent of the total learners at Shanghai's 190 or so schools. And the total number of such learners applying for driving licenses should be limited below 23,000 citywide each month. Driving schools said currently about half of learners are not locals.

Learners with permanent residency will be given priority and the remaining places allocated to non-locals.

Some people come to the city to learn as fees in Shanghai are usually cheaper.

Bashi school said it has asked out-of-towners to wait until next year to see if places become available again.

On average about 50,000 people apply for driving licenses each month here, authorities said.

Police said the curb is necessary as they found some out-of-town groups coming to Shanghai from neighboring areas and buying fake temporary residency in order to get into driving school.

Some residents have questioned whether the policy would ease congestion.

"We can acquire our driving licenses outside Shanghai and buy the cars in the city with Shanghai car plates," said one web user. "And still the number of cars grows."


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