This case discusses the housing registration system that was implemented in China in the late 1950s and categorized individuals into two groups: urban and rural. This was a status that individuals were born with and passed from one generation to the next. It not only defined their place of residence and work, but also the social benefits, housing, healthcare and education they were entitled to. In the period after 1978, with reforms in rural areas and the development of urban coastal areas, cheap labor flocked to the cities. With over 200 million migrants to urban areas in 20 years, the housing registration system prevented many from finding proper jobs, housing, healthcare and education. The Chinese government embarked on a number of reforms with varying degrees of success. This case highlights rural-urban disparities and the resulting migration to urban areas.
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