Page last updated at 14:16 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 15:16 UK

Shanghai relaxes residency rules

Migrant worker in Shanghai
A third of Shanghai's population are migrant workers

Shanghai officials have unveiled plans to relax strict residency rules, making it easier for people from other parts of China to live there permanently.

But the new rules are only thought to benefit 3,000 of the city's estimated six million migrant workers.

Applicants must be professionals who have lived legally for seven years in Shanghai, China's most populous city.

Despite these restrictions many locals oppose the plan, saying Shanghai is already too crowded.

Shanghai is the first of China's four municipalities - which also include Beijing, Chongqing and Tianjin - to relax its rigid registration rules.

Strict criteria

Shanghai wants to attract more skilled professionals, and it also wants more income from its temporary workers, to help pay for its welfare system.

One-third of the population are migrant workers who have come from other parts of the country.

Shanghai skyline (left - copyright AP) and people walking past a homeless person (right)
Shanghai's new plans are mainly targeted at skilled professionals

These new regulations promise people permanent residency on the condition they contribute to the city's coffers in the years to come, according to the BBC's correspondent in Shanghai, Chris Hogg.

Currently most of the city's migrant workers have no legal status at all.

About 270,000 are thought to have temporary residency, but even that does not confer many benefits.

Citizens need permanent residency status to access health centres and welfare facilities, or get cheaper tuition fees in the city's childcare centres and schools.

The new rules will allow anyone with a temporary residency certificate who has been in the city's social security system - working legally - for seven years to apply for permanent residency.

But they must also be able to prove they have paid their taxes, never violated family planning policies, have a clean credit rating and no criminal record.

They must also have obtained a vocational qualification.

Only about 3,000 people are thought to meet the criteria so far.

Despite this, opinion polls on news websites and blogs suggest the overwhelming majority of local residents oppose the new rules, saying the city is crowded enough already.

Others from outside Shanghai complain the criteria are too strict.

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