Over 60 million children in rural China have been left behind by their parents who have moved to cities for work. The effects of this on rural communities has been devastating.
The Chinese government’s current household registration system, known as hukou, makes it extremely difficult for migrant workers to take their children with them as they work in the cities.
As shown in the above half-hour report by the Australian Broadcast Corporation’s Foreign Correspondent program, the policy has torn apart China’s rural society.
“Of the 61 million [left behind children], one third, which is about 20 million, will get involved in short-term or long-term criminal activities,” said Joseph Lim, the founder of a small Christian NGO called Children Charity International, in the report.
“I can’t imagine what that will do to China itself. Another 20 million might be in mental institutions, short-term or long-term,” he said.
Young children left behind are often looked after by relatives or grandparents. Some are in boarding schools. In worst case scenarios, they are left to fend for themselves.
This is part of the cost of China’s economic progress.
In the report, the ABC crew visited one school in central China where 40 percent of the students do not live with their parents, who are working elsewhere.
There are 277 million rural migrant workers in the country, says the China Labour Bulletin. That is more than a third of China’s entire working population.
It took the film crew months to get permission from the authorities, and when they did the filming, they were accompanied by 15 government minders.
In the report, we get to meet some of those kids, who are known as the “left behind generation.”
Many of them have lost their childhood. Many have not known love; instead, they have experienced rejection and have subsequently become totally withdrawn. Heartbreaking stuff.