How does economic development contribute to the development for left behind children in rural areas?

By Zhao Qianqian

Nurturing and responsive parenting is essential to a child. As Parenting NI suggested, “parent involvement and intervention in the child’s day-to-day life lay the foundation for better social and academic skills.” Father and mother’s attitudes toward discipline, food, and hygiene can directly impact the behaviors of children.

Children, especially young kids, learn things from imitating other people. In fact, Carrie Shrier carried on an experiment that showed 14 year-old children are able to repeat the action from television with 20 seconds of viewing. According to Joel Schwarz, teenagers whose parents smoked are twice as likely to catch the habit than children of non-smokers.

Since children’s behaviors greatly depend on parenting, the absence of parenting is a huge problem for a child when growing up. “The children of uninvolved parents generally perform poorly in nearly every area of life”(Cherry, 2021). Children who have little emotional involvement with their parents tend to display deficits in cognition, emotional skills, and social skills… Furthermore, they face a greater possibility of forming attachments due to the lack of parental love and responsiveness.

In the northwest region of GuiZhou province in China, many parents become migrants in urban cities while their kids are left behind in the village. In BanWan Village, Ceheng District, 700 of a total of 1,118 residents go out to work in urban cities, which is 63% percent of them. Mr.L, the founder of a local NGO in Ceheng District said that: “Most children in BanWan have one or more parents working in other cities”. Most migrant workers in the region work as menial labor in GuangZhou, earning an average of 4,000 RMB every month. In contrast, the only job opportunities around BanWan are temporary jobs that pay only 80 RMB per day.

In addition, according to Mr. L, workers who have seen the advance of urban cities are likely to be unwilling to come back to the northwest region of GuiZhou. Rural areas lack entertainment, such as bars and movie theaters. For instance, Mrs. S who originally worked in GuangDong went back and worked in the brown sugar factory “Full of Love”. However, two years later, failing to live in a village having no entertainment beside TVs and phones, Mrs. S eventually went back to GuangDong.

BanWan Village

Because expenses are much higher if migrant workers take their children to urban cities, kids are taken care of by their extended family such as grandparents or relatives. “From that day on, I lived the life of an orphan with grandmother as my only family,” said a 10 years old girl named Y.X with watered eyes. She used to have both parents working in GuangDong. On the day they first left for job, Y.X. tried every means to stop them. She hided the baggage, struck the door handle with slippers, and held her father’s leg, but none of them worked.

Left behind children communicate with their parents using telephone or social media (such as WeChat, Instant Message). These communications are mostly about school works and their grades, but parents often pay little attention to their personal life. 

A left-behind child at BanWan village

Not being able to receive parental care has caused numerous problems for left behind children. First, “left behind children are more undisciplined in school”(Mr. ZW). According to Kendra Cherry, children without parents monitoring their behaviors are more insistent with rules. C.X. is a junior at YaTa No. 2 Middle School, in which 70% of students have parents working in other cities. A portion of the students join gangs, smoke, and do tattoos. Not only are left behind children more likely to ignore school rules, but they also tend to have poorer grades. Elders are generally unable to help children with school works.

Also, “elders are more likely to dote kids” (Mrs. L). Y.X. reflected almost regretfully that although spending too much time on technologies is both detrimental to grades and eye-sight, grandparents wouldn’t limit the time children watch phones. T.T. used to sleep at 2 or 3 in the morning, and would be late for school that starts at 8’o clock next day.

In addition, left behind children face more health issues. Grandparents “pay little attention to smaller things such as hygiene” (Mrs. L). For example, they allow children to sit on the floor as long as kids wouldn’t cry, despite the fact that it is rarely cleaned. Left behind children have a greater possibility of having messy hair, wearing dirty clothing, and having various bad habits such as throwing snack wrappers directly into corn fields.

Moreover, Mrs. L, who runs a shop, reflected that she has seen elders will agree when children asked for unhealthy candy and snacks even if the child has already eaten many. As a result, many children have carious teeth.

Finally, lack parental care leads to left behind children, especially younger kids, to have poor social skills. They are very quiet, only saying a few words when asked a question. Even if they start talking, many left behind children wouldn’t have eye contact with people around.

The policy of rural revitalization boosted the local economy, which may provide solutions for the development for left behind children. In 2021, there are 374 companies in total in CeHeng district, providing many employment opportunities for local residents. For example, a company named “Visitors of Mountains” recognized that old houses from Bouyei ethnic group can be refurbished to B&Bs. This renovated houses can also serve as bars, woodshops and other entertainments for local residents.

Though the B&Bs is still small, with only 30 occupation opportunities, it significantly helps local villagers living around the area. They can work as cleaners, cooks, or waiters, all earning 120 RMB per day. A day’s work at the B&Bs starts at 8 in the morning and ends at 6 at night with two hours of rest for lunch. Also, there are often various activities that aim to make the life of villagers more interesting and relaxing.

A house renovated by “Visitors of Mountains”

The GuiZhou Forest Board Base LTD., is a leading company in the town of QiaoMa, Ceheng District. It produces large environmentally protecting plate through processing self-planted eucalyptus. There are approximately 300 workers here, all under the age of 50 and older than 18. The GuiZhou Forest Board Base LTD also provide free dorms and food to workers.

Many residents of the town of QiaoMa come to the company, because it is convenient for them to bring their children to dorms and look after them. Workers have a minimum wage of 3,000 RMB per month, and they will earn more depending on their speed. While being near home, the average salary here is 4,500 RMB, which is same to what migrant workers earn in urban cities.

The Guizhou Forest Board Base LTD

When parents come back, the problems caused by parents’ absence may also be resolved. In fact, Luo’s mother came back to BanWan two years ago, and was farming and raising pigs at home. As her mother helps Luo with school works and rigidly lists activities she needs to perform every day, Luo was ranked first in the last exam. The huge improvements in school is accompanied with a cleaner appearance. her mother braids Luo’s hair and dressed her up with cute clothing. Nevertheless, the financial situation of Luo’s family significantly decreased because the income received by farming was miniscule. Three months ago, her mother found the opportunity of working in the B&Bs as an assistant cook, and have a more consistent financial income.

In conclusion, the economic development will provide more job opportunities, as well as improving the living environment of the northwest region of GuiZhou. Parents coming back to work lay the foundation for solving the challenges presented to the 61 million left behind children, such as bad academic performances, health problems, and social skills.

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