Kam Wing Chan, Department of Geography, University of Washington
In China, a new generation of children is growing up in the countryside with only one or no parents around during most of the time of the year. They are called “left-behind children.” Their population has grown to more than 60 million; half of them are between age 6 and 14. They are left behind because their parents have gone to work in the city, often hundreds of miles away from home. They are part of China’s gargantuan army of migrant workers, estimated at about 170 million in 2014. These laborers power China’s economic machine, turning it into the “world’s factory’. While they work in the city, their children often cannot with them. Lacking day-to-day parental care and close guidance, the “left-behind” children face many problems and a high percentage of them get into trouble. Many develop psychological problems, and some fall victims to bullying, physical or sexual abuse, or even serious accidents. This presentation explains how China’s special, “incomplete” urbanization policy and the hukou (household registration) system function in concert to produce a vast population of “left-behind” children and “migrant children,” and the implications.
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