More than nine million Chinese children are left behind in rural areas with their parents working in cities hundreds of miles away, according to data released by China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs on Wednesday.
Of the total 9.02 million left-behind children, over 90% are living in central and western parts of China, the ministry added. The numbers were released in response to an investigation initiated by China’s central government back in March, in a bid to know the exact number of left-behind children across the country - the first such investigation of its kind.
The left-behind children reported on in the survey refer to those under 16 years old in rural areas whose parents are working in cities. They live with grandparents, other relatives or even on their own at home.
Numerous studies have revealed the negative effects on children due to the absence of parental care. A research published in June by Shangxue Lushang, a state-affiliated mental health charity, found that left-behind kids are more prone to depression and anxiety than their urban peers due to lack of parental contact.
To improve the situation, several local governments have issued regulations banning migrant worker parents from leaving their offspring behind at home. In Jiangsu Province, for example, infants under three years of age must be looked after by parents – or at least one of the parents must stay at home.
On China’s social media platforms, netizens regularly voice their opinions on this pressing social issue..
“Many parents just have no other choice – they have to make money to support the family anyway!” @saeaGril
“I think we should make laws to make it clear that leaving kids at home without parental care is illegal! Anybody who violates the laws should be punished. We own our kids a healthy growth environment.” @Zhongyongdaozhe
“Why don’t we make more efforts to develop economy in the countryside and create more job opportunities in the countryside? The root reason for left-behind kids is the economic backwardness in the rural areas!” @Zhanghaozhuxiaozhonging