White Paper Reveals Harsh Life of Rural 'Left-behind' Children

August 1, 2017北京市
By Wu WeiEditor: Hewater Liu
White Paper Reveals Harsh Life of Rural 'Left-behind' Children
A screenshot of the white paper published online [On the Road to School]


Nearly a third of rural students in China live without parental supervision, and around 10 percent of those only see their parents once a year or less, according to the latest report.

On the Road to School, a Beijing-based charity organization, released its White Paper on Chinese “Left-behind” Children’s Psychological Conditions on July 21, which polled thousands of teenagers in 17 provincial-level regions across the country and received 14,868 responses.

The survey featured three main topics, reflecting on the lives of underprivileged children and demanding urgent actions of relevant authorities to change current trends.

Number of rural 'left-behind' children

The number of rural schoolkids whose parents have left them alone at home to find employment in far-off cities has reached 9 million, accounting for 26.1 percent of the total student population.

As many as 55.8 percent of children in rural areas of southwestern and northwestern China, along with Henan, Hubei and Hunan provinces, fall into this category, while the level in eastern, northeastern and northern China has stayed at 44.2 percent.

The proportion of rural children whose fathers have gone to work in cities has risen to 26.9 percent, which translates into 11 million in total. Moreover, the number of children whose mothers worked outside their hometowns has totaled 2 million, 5.1 percent of the total.

Estranged parent-child relations

The white paper has also shed light upon the ties between rural “left-behind” children and their migrant parents.

More than half of rural children meet their parents who both work elsewhere twice a year or less. Around 40 percent of the rest children have only seen their father or mother one time or twice a year.

Furthermore, 13.6 percent and 15.6 percent of them failed to see their father or mother, respectively, for a whole year.

Contact between rural children and their parents is sharply lower than that of their urban peers. For instance, the percentage of rural children who have gotten in touch with their father and mother at least nine times a year, is around 20 percent, nearly 20 points lower than that of teenagers from cities.

A majority of 'left-behind' children experience backsliding in their academic studies

The study has found that as high as 67.8 percent of those polled have experienced a regression in their academic studies and that 45.8 percent of them have been bullied in school. It adds that an absence of maternal cares has made a more evident impact than among children with absent fathers.

Some 45.1 percent of polled students from rural areas lived on their campus, nearly 30 points higher than that of their urban counterparts.

Furthermore, 11.4 percent of the surveyed have revealed that they have lost their father or mother in the recent few years, yet 7.9 percent of them said that the death of their parents had little impact upon them.


The Ministry of Civil Affairs has taken targeted efforts to ensure that all rural left-behind children fall under guardianship. It orders their migrant parents to return to their hometown and take care of them, or entrust their parental responsibilities to others.

In addition, the bureaus of public security are responsible for sending those children whose parents are unreachable or have no abilities to undertake their duties, to their relatives, or to village committees and public welfare institutes for temporary care.


White Paper Reveals Harsh Life of Rural 'Left-behind' Children
Liu Xinyu, director-general of On the Road to School, speaks at the release ceremony in Beijing on July 21. [China Youth Daily]

(Source: bjnews.com.cn/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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