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Hukou (Chinese: 户口; lit. 'household individual') is a system of household registration used in mainland China. The system itself is more properly called "huji" (Chinese: 户籍; lit. 'household origin'), and has origins in ancient China; hukou is the registration of an individual in the system (kou literally means "mouth", which originates from the practise of regarding family members as "mouths to feed", similar to the phrase "per head" in English). A household registration record officially identifies a person as a permanent resident of an area and includes identifying information such as name, parents, spouse and date of birth. A hukou can also refer to a family register in many contexts since the household register (simplified Chinese: 户口簿; traditional Chinese: 戶口簿; pinyin: hùkǒu bù) is issued per family, and usually includes the births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and moves, of all members in the family.
|Alternative Chinese name
The system descends in part from ancient Chinese household registration systems. The hukou system also influenced similar systems within the public administration structures of neighboring East Asian countries, such as Japan (koseki) and Korea (hoju), as well as the Southeast Asian country Vietnam (hộ khẩu). In South Korea, the hoju system was abolished in January 2008. While unrelated in origin, propiska in the Soviet Union and resident registration in Russia had a similar purpose and served as a model for modern China's hukou system.
Due to its connection to social programs provided by the government, which assigns benefits based on agricultural and non-agricultural residency status (often referred to as rural and urban), the hukou system is sometimes likened to a form of caste system. It has been the source of much inequality over the decades since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, as urban residents received benefits that ranged from retirement pension to education to health care, while rural citizens were often left to fend for themselves. In recent years,[when?] the central government has begun to reform the system in response to protests and a changing economic system, while some Western experts question whether these changes have been of substance.
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