According to The Financial Times, “China’s race to be a global economic power has also come at the price of leaving 58 million children” growing up in the countryside without their parents – who leave every year to seek employment in coastal cities hundreds of miles away. These “left-behind children” make up close to half of all children in the countryside.
The book The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage and the documentary Last Train Home describe this urban migration in detail. They have shown that this quest for a “better lifestyle” has led to more hardships for its migrant workers than originally promised.
With no employment opportunities in their home villages, parents must travel far distances to find work and may return to see their children and family only once per year. The family, the core and most important of Chinese values, is currently being disrupted by this migration.
What will this emerging generation – 20 percent of all children in China — be like if they grow up without their parents nor a sense of family? It is a large enough number that should not just be a concern for China; it must also be a concern for the rest of the world.