Left-Behind Children of China’s Migrant Workers Bear Grown-Up Burdens
I live in the next province over from the one mentioned in this article, but the same problem exists here, too. Parents from rural areas go to the big cities for work and they leave their kids behind — not out of choice, mind you.
So, these children grow up with parents far away. Their grandparents shoulder the child-rearing duties, but many are not up to the task. My former students who now teach in the mountain schools worry that China is raising generations of children with little education and poor social skills, who will just repeat the cycle with their own kids.
About 61 million Chinese children—one of every five in the world’s most populous nation—haven’t seen one or both parents for at least three months, according to the All-China Women’s Federation, a Communist Party advocacy group. The total has grown so big that the children are widely known as left-behind kids. Nowhere else on earth do so many children live largely on their own.
Many migrant parents believe they are fulfilling their duty to raise their family’s standard of living. Income sent home helps pay for better food and education, and some workers save enough money to build a new home in their rural village. It is common for both parents to leave home together, since they can save faster and there are so many jobs in the city.
Their absence forces children to shoulder the responsibilities of running a household. Grandparents who live with left-behind children often are ailing or toil long hours tending fields or gathering firewood. Many rural Chinese grandparents are illiterate and can’t help with homework.
A few of these kids manage to do well in school, and go to college. I teach some of them.