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Residency grant to lure talent

CHANG Shouqing, a Jiangsu Province native who has been working in Shanghai's Zhangjiang High-Tech Park for six years, now has new hopes of putting down roots in the city and enjoying the fruits of permanent residency.

Shanghai has launched a trial plan to ease the granting of household registration, or hukou, to the talented outsiders it will need to propel its future. The reform will also help resolve financing problems caused by the city's growing age imbalance.

Some of the details of the three-year test run were revealed yesterday on the Shanghai government Website.

As a result of the human-resource reforms, Chang's own life plans have taken on a brighter hue, as he now considers getting married here.

"My kid will be a Shanghai native if I can receive hukou," said the 28-year-old information technology worker.

With hukou, the newcomers enjoy the same social insurance benefits as locals, and their children are granted access to city schools. Another benefit for people who often go abroad is that they won't need to return to their hometowns for visas.

With a population of nearly 19 million people, Shanghai became the first large city in the country to ease its previously rigid hukou system.

City government promised that the reform will "greatly enlarge" the number of people who will be allowed to become permanent residents, though a specific figure was not revealed.

In the past, Shanghai employed strict quotas for workers allowed to convert their non-permanent residency status into hukou. The city brought only 24,200 outsiders into its hukou system in 2007, while last year, 5.17 million people were living here on a non-permanent basis. Among those who work in the city without permanent residency, about 20 percent are classified as top talents.

"That group of people has high education levels and incomes," said Wang Daben, a population expert at East China Normal University. "Providing them with Shanghai hukou will give them more motivation and a sense of belonging."

Age imbalance

Bringing in a wave of younger workers will also help ease the city's age imbalance, according to Wang. Residents above age 60 accounted for 20.8 percent of the population in 2007, compared with 18.7 percent in 2002, according to figures from the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau. The city's family planning agency said the figure could rise to 34 percent in 2020.

Also in 2007 the number of hukou holders between age 15 and 59 decreased for the first time, falling by 52,000 to 9.75 million.

The aging of the overall population puts pressure on the city's social welfare system as the mix between wage earners and retirees shifts, experts said.

The contribution by new residents to Shanghai's social security fund can help ease financing challenges for pensions, said Xu Jiancheng of the Shanghai Institute of Public Administration and Human Resources.

Hukou applications will begin to be accepted after detailed regulations are issued. To qualify for permanent residency, applicants must be professionals who hold a Shanghai residency card and have lived and paid taxes in the city for at least seven years.

In a related development, city government said yesterday it also plans to award hukou status to professionals who can help build Shanghai into an international financial hub as soon as they are hired by the city.


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