The story of Left-Behind Children in China


The left-behind children in China, also called "stay-at-home children", are children who remain in rural regions of China while their parents leave to work in urban areas. 
In many cases, these children are taken care of by their extended families, usually by grandparents or family friends, who remain in the rural regions.


  • According to the UNICEF 2018 Annual Report, there are approximately 69 million children left behind by one or both of their parents due to migration, which is equivalent to thirty percent of the children in rural area.
  • The number of left behind children is unevenly distributed across age groups, regions, and gender. 
[Video] Why millions of Chinese children are parenting themselves..

  • The majority of the left-behind children population is located in south and central regions of China. 
  • Many factors contribute to the increase of left-behind children in China. Internal migration, which mainly involves massive economically-driven population shifts from the rural areas to the cities in China, produces a large population of left-behind children and migrant children. 
  • China's Hukou system (Chinese Household Registration System) hampers left-behind children's chances of public school enrollment in cities. 
  • In some cities where a school enrollment point system are implemented, educational resources in urban areas are not readily accessible to migrants and left-behind children. As a result of the lack of educational resources, many migrant parents left their children at home.
  • The physical and mental wellbeing of the left-behind children has become one increasing concern for researchers and Chinese government. 
  • Some researchers found that the remittance from migrant parents has a positive impact on children's education and human capital. 
  • Many of these children face developmental and emotional challenges as a result of the limited interaction with their biological parents. 
  • The lack of infrastructure and parental support have led to additional challenges for left-behind children including quality education, physical well-being, and healthy social relationships.

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