The hukou system is China’s policy of residential registration in which a person is registered in the area in which he or she was born. This registration entitles them to receive social services like healthcare, housing, employment and free public education in their specific registered area. This policy, enacted in 1958, enabled China’s planned economy to adequately handle the needs of each region. However, the heavy urban influx of migrants from the countryside would throw the planned economic provisions heavily off balance, pressing the urban social welfare system to its extreme. The rural hukou prevents migrants from accessing the various social and educational services and opportunities in their new urban residence. The benefits that would normally be available to them are non-existent.
When migrants relocate to the cities where they cannot obtain a hukou, they encounter restrictions that they may not have anticipated upon their departure from the countryside. They are restricted from accessing healthcare and social services; they are barred from purchasing a home. They can even be denied a birth permit when expecting a child, which forces them to return to their village for the birth of their child and thus insures that the child will also have a rural hukou. The hukou protects the system for the more affluent and socially accepted families in the urban areas. It also acts as a welcomed protective barrier for urban residents who don’t want to share their services or want their children’s schools to accept migrants.