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Central, West China Show Greater Potential for Urbanization

As it becomes increasingly difficult for migrant workers to settle in China’s largest cities, the country’s central and western regions are increasingly offering more opportunities, lower costs of living and fewer hukou restrictions

By Zhang Qingchen Updated Mar.26

Data shows factors such as rising costs of living, policy constraints are slowing down migration to China’s largest cities in the east. Instead, more workers are choosing either to stay in their registered hometowns or settle in Central and West China, news portal 21st Century Business Herald reported.     

Much of the trend has to do with restrictions on hukou, or official household registration. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), at the end of 2018, the urbanization rate for resident populations (that is, people living in cities other than their hukou for more than half the year) was 59.58 percent, an increase of 1.06 percent compared to 2017. Household registration populations, or those whose permanent residence is in their registered hometowns, was 43.37 percent, an increase of 1.02 percent.    

NBS data shows that higher urbanization rates are highest in eastern coastal areas at around 70 to 80 percent, while the rates average around 50 percent in Central and West China.     

Regions in Central and West China offer more opportunities for development to migrant workers, said Zeng Gang, dean of the School of Ecological and Environmental Sciences in the East China Normal University, who argues that if more migrant workers return home, as current trends suggest, younger people will stay in these areas to work. Once employment rates rise, urbanization rates will follow, Zeng said.    

Zhang Baotong, president of Shaanxi Province Economic and Cultural Research, said promoting urbanization in Central and West China is easier than in larger cities because of lower costs of living, fewer hukou restrictions and growing opportunities.