Much has been written about the threat Didi Chuxing and its new subsidiary Uber China face from draft regulations posed earlier this month by municipal authorities in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. And make no mistake, Didi stands to lose a ton if these regulations go through. But as is so often the case in the games of the rich and powerful, the real losers here are likely to be poor migrants.
That’s because of one the major restrictions in the proposed regulations stipulates that ride-hailing drivers must have a local hukou.
The hukou is a government registration system that formally ties citizens to their place of residence. It was originally implemented to control the flow of people between the countryside and the cities, and although hundreds of millions of rural Chinese have migrated to cities over the past thirty years, most of those migrants are still tied to their rural hukou. Lacking a local hukou disqualifies these migrants from jobs, housing, and social benefits available to other city residents.
The rise of Didi and other ride-hailing companies
has been a boon to some of these migrants.
But all of those jobs are now perched precariously on a knife’s edge. None of the proposed regulations have yet been formalised, but if they’re ratified as-is, drivers without a local hukou (or at least a local residency permit, which can be tough to get in big cities) would lose their jobs. So would any drivers with cars not registered with in-city plates.
At present, these restrictive draft regulations have only been released in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, but other cities could follow suit.