Hukou in China: How do you keep 1.35 billion people in their place?

China’s population has topped 1.35 billion and its cities are bursting at the seams. Internal migration brings throngs of people to densely packed suburbs and work places, but the Chinese hukou (household registration) system restricts the rights people have once they leave their home district and threatens their welfare.

Arrival City spends a lot of time in China, meeting with people who depart from their ancestral homelands and those who have made it in their new urban dwellings. As cities continue to pop up, develop, and modernize, millions of Chinese workers are feeling the squeeze of the hukou in the 21st century. What do you think will be the fate of this system and the people it impacts?

The Globe and Mail has a look inside suburban Shanghai where migrant workers are toiling on a residential construction site. Click on the link to see the whole slideshow and the glistening buildings of Shanghai peering over the shoulders of the workers on the edge of their unbuilt city.

Migrant workers on a construction site in Shanghai. (Photo from Aly Song/Reuters).
Migrant workers on a construction site in Shanghai. (Photo from Aly Song/Reuters).

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