The Central Leading Group on Comprehensively Deepening Reform announced on Wednesday that it will give household residential permits -known as hukou in Chinese- to unregistered citizen in China and make medical insurance coverage more accessible.
The reform will provide about 13 million people with hukou, which will allow citizens to access healthcare services along with education opportunities for children not registered.
The hukou system, which many families are denied, is often discussed in the context of rural-to-urban migration, as migrant workers can find it nearly impossible to get hukou in their new place of residence.
Hukou is necessary for individuals who wish to marry, open a bank account, apply for medical insurance, as well as access basic education.
However, many unregistered Chinese citizens are currently outside the system due to their births being flouted by China’s one-child policy, homelessness, or being orphans.
Chinese media stressed that the government approves plans of merging insurance schemes for urban and rural residents in a bid to allow healthcare to be much more accessible for citizens.
Despite health insurance being accessible through the government for the entire population –approximately 1.4 billion- patients are still required to pay large amounts out of pocket for co-pay expenses, which puts pressure on families who are suffering with major illnesses such as cancer.
The communist government dropped its one-child policy in October after decades and allowed Chinese citizens to have two children, aimed at alleviating the demographic strain on the economy.
"It is a basic legal right for Chinese citizens to lawfully register for hukou. It's also a premise for citizens to participate in social affairs, enjoy rights and fulfil duties," state television CCTV reported, citing a statement released after a government meeting over the reform.
Some Chinese rights activists criticise the hukou system, as one said on Radio Free Asia, “There are still places where local officials use the fact that any bureaucratic process must start at the grassroots level: sometimes even the village chief has the power to initiate hukou applications… Given the endemic nature of corruption in China, these officials use every bit of their power as a way of extracting money from the population.”