The Everyday Lives of Policies and People
Edited by Norman Long, Jingzhong Ye and Yihuan Wang
Chapter 10: Rural–Urban Migration and the Plight of ‘Left-behind Children’ in Mid-west China
Ye Jingzhong, Wang Yihuan and Zhang Keyun INTRODUCTION During the past two decades rural out-migration has kept pace with the increasing demand for labour in the rapidly expanding urban areas of China, and many such migrants are obliged or choose to leave their children in the village. This has resulted in the emergence of a new social group referred to as ‘left-behind children’ (liushouertong). Available statistical data vary, but all estimates put the number of such children in the multi-millions. Yet, despite the social concern shown for this potentially vulnerable category of children, there remain few in-depth studies of the phenomenon. It was for this reason, in 2004, that the College of Humanities and Development (COHD) of China Agricultural University and Plan China cooperated in looking at the impact of rural labour migration on left-behind children in mid-west China, one of China’s poorer and less well developed regions. Ten villages in the Provinces of Shanxi, Ningxia, Hebei and Beijing were selected for the research, which focused primarily on the family backgrounds, daily lives, and educational and emotional worlds of these children. The data collected document the current status of both the children left-behind and those who remain with their parents, and the study provides a picture of the situation of left-behind children before and after their parents migrate (for further details, see Ye Jingzhong et al. 2005).1 THE PREDICAMENT OF ‘LEFT-BEHIND’ CHILDREN Since the beginning of the 1980s, the pace of modernization in China has led to huge urban...
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