Monday, 28 March 2016

Finally Counting Those Left Behind

Many left-behind children are raised by their grandparents
After more than 30 years of "opening up", when paramount leader Deng Xiaoping named Shenzhen a special economic zone where migrant workers left their families to work in factories, the Chinese government has finally decided to look into how many children they left behind since then.

The issue has resulted in children, some now adults, who don't have a proper education and have estranged relationships with their parents, as they only saw them once a year.

Researchers estimate there are more than 60 million of these left-behind children, but the government will try to find out the exact number so that each of the kids can get some kind of assistance, according to China Youth Daily.

The government ministries will also include migrant juveniles, those who followed their parents from the countryside to the city, which could be as many as 36 million.

Some children have to fend for themselves in rural areas
Ni Chunxia, deputy head of the Ministry of Civil Affairs' social affairs department, said there was no authoritative data on the issue, even though it has long been a major social problem.

A number of these children have led lives of juvenile delinquency, or have committed suicide. Last year a boy and three girls, aged between five and 13, who lived in poverty near Bijie, Guizhou, killed themselves by drinking pesticide.

In the same place in 2012, five left-behind boys living on the streets were found dead in a large garbage bin after having inhaled carbon monoxide while burning charcoal to keep warm.

Last month a directive from the State Council ordered local governments to build a database of these children. The authorities must have one file per child, and each updated on a regular basis.

Lawyer Li Ying, director of the Beijing Yuangzhong Gender Development Centre and an activist in helping left-behind children, said having the database was essential in providing better care and support.

Left-behind children don't get much of an education
"After many years of services, I really think that we can't replace parents after all," she said. "We saw many tragedies and learned that the absence of parents not only means  a lack of caring for their daily life, but also a lack of fundamental education, about telling them what's right and what's wrong.

"The authorities should focus more on luring the parents back home, such as creating jobs and improving their social insurance," Li said. "That way their children can enjoy normal family love."

It's shocking three decades later the government is finally taking some interest in this major group of people, and when it comes to security, one would have thought the government would want to pay more attention to them.

These migrant workers are the ones who sacrificed so much to help build the country economically to the world's second-largest economy, and yet the government only now thinks to focus more attention on their left-behind children.

If there are over 60 million of them, imagine how many aren't properly educated, don't have the necessary social skills let alone life skills to become fully-functioning members of society?

Some NGOs have tried to help this group of people, but were previously thwarted by the government through accusing them of not having proper licenses to run schools for children of migrant workers or making it hard for people to donate to charities that want to help them.

Perhaps now the government see the disparity is too great to ignore?

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