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9.02 mln children left behind by migrant parents in China

Reporter: Tao Yuan 丨 CCTV.com

11-28-2016 10:35 BJT

One of the most pressing social issues in China is the plight of so-called "left-behind children," - children whose parents have migrated to cities for work, leaving them in the care of elderly relatives, or in some cases, no one at all.

Starting in March this year, the central government has been working on a nationwide census to gather data on these children - to establish how many there are, where they live, and their family and education status. It's the first survey of its kind and is seen as a major step towards solving this problem.

12-year-old Liu Hongmei and her younger brother Yintan run the family just like adults.

Liu Hongmei said, "Every day, we do household chores and then we do homework. I cook for the family while my grandmother starts the fire. "

They have no choice because their parents are not around. Their mother abandoned the family because of poverty. Their father - a construction worker - is employed in a nearby town.

"My father only comes home when it rains very, VERY heavily. And when he does, we see that his hands are covered in blisters. Grandma's sick, we want to do what we can to share her burden," said Liu Hongmei.

Hongmei and Yintan belong to a generation of children in rural China who are growing up without their parents.

They're just two of 9 million - according to a recent government survey. Economic development in China means better jobs tend to be found in the cities - in factories, shops and on construction sites.

Cai Shibi used to work as a factory supervisor in a southern city of Dongguan.

Cai said, "Once when I came home, I saw my daughter fighting for food with a dog. Her grandparents were always busy with farmwork. I thought my children couldn't continue living like this - They’d develop psychological problems."

So Cai Shibi returned home. Now she is a government social worker, running an after-school activities program.

But even with her help, many children still struggle. Like 12-year-old Tao Liuyuan.

Tao said, "I miss my parents so much. They haven't been home in a VERY long time. There are so many things I can't express over the phone. I want to tell them in person."

China is continuing to charge forward full speed, improving the lives of countless families, but the emotional and psychological toll taken on these children can't be measured in numbers.

The government's comprehensive survey is just a first step toward solving their plight. The children are waiting to see what happens next. And the government knows it, because the sheer size of these children means the country's future may well depend on them. 

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