How Far are the Left-behind Left Behind? A Preliminary Study in Rural China
Author(s): Xiang Biao
This paper discusses the basic problems faced by those left behind when some member of the community migrate in China, by conceptualising left behind into three groups: wives, the elderly and children. The article starts with an overview of rural-urban migration patterns by arguing that the left-behind population is to a large extent an institutional outcome based on a clear distinction between rural and urban forms of citizenship and the limited rights to employment and education for rural migrants and their family members in urban areas. In considering the left behind, the article argues that migration in China remains a male-dominant phenomenon and as a result there is an observed feminisation of the agricultural sector. In the case of children left behind, many studies reveal pessimistic results, without comparing them with those who live with parents. For example, the psychological status of the left-behind children is less healthy than other children, but only very marginally. The left-behind children face various problems but they are not evidently worse than those accompanied by parents. Moreover, rural children are more than twice as likely to have psychological and behavioural problems as their urban counterparts. Therefore the article concludes that the rural-urban divide is far more significant than the differences between the left-behind and the accompanied.