The Story of a 'Left-Behind' Child of China

Juntao Lyu


In China today, there are an estimated 61 million children that have been separated from their parents — the so-called “left-behind” children of China. As one of the “left-behind” generation, I have experienced the poverty, separation, and struggles that characterise these hard times. On reflection, the strong influence of rural Chinese gendered and cultural norms are paramount to understanding my experience and those who grew up alongside me. My story is by no means universal — the challenges faced by Chinese “left-behind” children are wide-ranging, and as diverse and complex as China itself. After all, my story is just one story of millions, and it is one of privilege when considering the experiences of others. While China’s rural-urban move has brought significant financial improvements and opportunities for many, this comes at a price for those left behind.

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A Articles/Books/Reports

Castles, Stephen, Hein De Haas and Mark J Miller, The age of migration: International population movements in the modern world (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

Chan, Aris, ‘Paying the Price for Economic Development: The Children of Migrant Workers in China’ (Special Report, China Labour Bulletin, November 2009) 12

Chiang, Yi-lin, Emily C Hannum and Grace Kao, ‘It's Not Just About the Money: Motivations for Youth Migration in Rural China’ (Working Paper, Asia-Pacific Education, Language Minorities and Migration Network Working Paper Series, 18 February 2014)

Goodburn, Charlotte, ‘Learning from migrant education: a case study of the schooling of rural migrant children in Beijing’ (2009) 29 International Journal of Educational Development 496

Jiayou Luo et al, ‘The Status of Care and Nutrition of 774 Left-behind Children in Rural Areas in China’ (2008) 123 Public Health Reports 382

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Zhang, Wenjuan, Focus on Children’s Rights in Rapid Economic Development: The Proposition China Endeavours to Solve, Report, UNICEF China (November 2014) 4

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B Other

Phillips, Tom, ‘Chinese police “find suicide note” in case of “left behind” children deaths’, The Guardian (online), 14 June 2015

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‘They are also parents: A Study on Migrant Workers with Left-behind Children in China’ (Report, Center for Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility, August 2013) 3