A rural "left-behind" child [File photo/people.com.cn]
The government could better help migrant workers return to their rural hometowns for work or move with their children to cities, in efforts to tackle the problem of China's "left-behind" kids, said a Hong Kong-based political adviser at the ongoing session of China's top consultative body in Beijing on March 8.
Young How Wah proposed that the government should continue to invest in development in rural areas and attract migrant workers to work in or start business near their hometowns. By doing so, these workers' children will unite with them, instead of living separately, she said.
Many children in China live alone in their hometowns, whilst their parents go to seek work in the big cities across the country. These so-called “left-behind” children are often cared for by senior family members, or have to look after themselves.
"As regards migrant workers who are affluent, the government may consider allowing them to bring their children to settle down in cities with them, in order to have more rural children live with their parents and cut down on the number of 'left-behind' children," stated Young.
To meet their needs for education, Young said that government might consider gradually allowing them to sit high school entrance exams in the cities in order to have more children of migrant workers receive senior high school education and grow under their parental care.
According to a report by the All-China Women's Federation in 2013, there are more than 60 million rural left-behind children who are taken care of by their grandparents and about 35 million rural children of migrant workers who live in cities. Due to the long periods of separation from their parents, most of the left-behind children have mental development issues.
"With the issue of the 'second-baby policy' and improvement of services related to child-bearing, having a second baby may become a trend," said Young.
"The trend will only highlight the issue of 'left-behind' children, and make it more difficult to deal with."
In the short term, Young suggested officials should target the real situation of rural areas.
"The government provides support for families with 'left-behind' children," said Young. "Disadvantaged families should be provided with short-term assistance."
"The government at the same time may consider investing more resources in support of children's mental health, and providing timely counseling services."
In addition, Young suggested rural schools should establish a system to have teachers guide pupils to complete their homework and participate in after-hours activities.
"Meanwhile, government may consider improving educational agencies' functions in rural areas and provide more training and allowance to teachers," stated Young.
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