poverty in China
As of 2018, 16.6 million people live in poverty in China. Although the statistic is staggering, many overlook it in light of China’s recent successes. In the last few decades, the country underwent rapid industrialization and urban development, which uplifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. However, China has all but forgotten millions of rural families. As a result, the rural families must live off of meager means in the countryside or roam from place to place looking for work.

In prominent cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, glistening glass skyscrapers soar and large shopping malls appear throughout. Below, fresh paint marks the newly paved streets and public workers hustle about, cleaning street trash. China has come a long way.

However, not all of China is this way. The country is massive; in fact, the landmass nears the same size as all of Western Europe and contains many secluded regions away from the bustling cities. It is in these provinces that the poor are sequestered. Seeking a better life, many people dealing with poverty in China leave their hometown, becoming migrant workers.

Migrant Workers

Unlike some other Western countries, China has a household registration program called the hukou system. This system registers individuals to a specific district or area in which they are born. The local government of that district provides health care, education and pension payments for registered community members.

However, if one wishes to move, it is extremely unlikely that they will receive permission to upgrade to a more prosperous community. If they do so anyway, the migrant will lose their social benefits. Yet, many individuals choose to do this because of the lackluster agrarian jobs of their hometown (or lack of any available jobs).

Currently, migrant workers number more than 288 million, which is above 20% of the total population and continues to rise each day. Forgoing their government benefits, many of these families are unable to provide an education for their children. Moreover, when parents retire, they have no choice but to put the financial strain on their children to support them.

Due to being unregistered, this populace escapes census, which is why, statistically, poverty levels appear so low. In reality, many families are struggling to make ends meet. Kids are going without education, parents without jobs and grandparents without support.

Rural Poverty in China

If migrant workers are classified as rural, then more than 99% of China’s poverty belongs to rural provinces, and less than 1% reside in modern cities. This wealth inequality largely comes down to quality jobs. Among the rural poor, 93% are capable of work, yet due to inadequate education, they lack the credentials needed for high-paying jobs.

As a result, rural people focus primarily on agriculture. However, while other economic sectors boom around the country, the agricultural sector continues to lag behind. Currently, the rural sector as a whole is in a state of regression, with rural per capita income decreasing by nearly 20% in some quarters. This is a warning bell for the government to step in and offer aid.

Response to Poverty in China

China’s poverty alleviation campaign stands to be one of the most successful in human history. It is astounding how much the country has done in a matter of decades, improving the lives of hundreds of millions. However, much more progress must occur.

The main issue lies in the fact that poverty no longer settles in one particular region but rather exists throughout the nation in equal distribution. This makes it extremely difficult for the government to make a focused effort on poverty reduction.

However, there are three potential solutions to help alleviate poverty in China. The first solution deals with reforming the hukou system to support domestic migration. The second solution focuses on allowing farmers to own the land they toil and improve farm yield. Lastly, outside sources could invest in foreign aid focused on developing rural sectors and providing quality education.

– Jacob Pugmire
Photo: Flickr

During the 2008 financial crisis, more than 20 million people in China were laid off, with the official unemployment rate reaching a peak of 4.7% in 2009. Since then, official unemployment in China has remained steady, hovering around 4.6% until 2015 and reaching a decade low of nearly 4.2% in 2018.

China has been able to maintain relatively low numbers in unemployment through an increase in investment in its social policies. Since the 2008 financial crisis, its jobless claims program funding nearly tripled to $82.37 billion. In 2016, China also signed an agreement with the International Labor Organization through the Decent Work Country Program, pledging to focus on generating a better social protection system and increasing the “quantity and quality of employment,” among other objectives, through the end of 2020. However, COVID-19 has interfered with these plans.

Impact of COVID-19 on Unemployment

China has over 84,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with more than 4,600 reported deaths as of May 14, 2020. Since its first case in December of 2019, China has taken drastic measures to reduce the spread of the virus. This lead to a 6.8% drop in its GDP from January to March. Many business were also forced to close. While some industries have now reopened, China’s economy is still far from operating at full capacity and has been left with a grudging consumer base.

There was an estimated increase in unemployment in China by three million people as the rate increased from 5.2% in December 2019 to 5.9% in March 2020. However, there was no increase in the number of unemployed receiving benefits. To make matters worse, this is only what has been officially reported and does not include rural migrant workers. Including migrant workers would change the recent peak in unemployment from roughly 6% to nearly 20%.

Additionally, millions have been working without a contract, working without paying into their unemployment insurance or have not worked long enough to collect, leaving them without access to unemployment insurance. Those who do receive an unemployment check are being sent less than minimum wage each month, leaving many unable to pay rent.

Responses to Unemployment in China

The Chinese government recognizes the extreme troubles millions of its citizens are experiencing. They have mandated government officials to “prioritize job security and social stability above anything else.” Already China has been supporting small businesses through an increase in lending, as well as providing subsidies and tax breaks. Additionally, the government has given 67,000 jobless migrants a one-time payment with an additional 2.8 million more people receiving unemployment benefits (averaging $571 per person) and another 5.78 million people receiving subsidies to combat inflation. Those unable to receive unemployment insurance do have the opportunity to apply for financial assistance depending on their income.

As of early May, close to nine million college and university graduates are expected to enter the workforce, further adding to the workforce competition. In response, the Ministry of Education in China has announced plans to help alleviate the additional pressure from graduates entering the workforce. Over the summer, the Ministry of Education looks to create more opportunities for graduate education and teacher positions, as well as to encourage “small, medium-sized and micro enterprises to recruit more college graduates.”

As COVID-19 continues to be a significant problem around the world, it is essential that countries address the poverty and unemployment that the pandemic exacerbates. Moving forward, China and other nations must continue to create policies and programs designed to protect the impoverished.

– Scott Boyce
Photo: Unsplash

Seven Facts About Migrant Children in China
The world’s largest migration, known as the ‘floating population,’ has not only affected China’s economic reform, but has shaped millions of children. In 2017, a
report stated that China has an “estimated 287 million rural migrant workers” to look for greater job opportunities. UNICEF has approximated that nearly 100 million children have been affected by this change, and many put in harm. Here are seven facts about migrant children in China.

7 Facts About Migrant Children in China

  1. According to the journal, “Chinese Education and Society,” 35.81 million children of those affected by the migration migrate to the city with their parents, while around 70 million were left behind in their rural hometowns.
  2. Migrant children who move to the cities often lack the same access to social services as other children such as: education, healthcare and support. This lack occurs due to the Hukou system, a system that registers one in the hometown that he or she was born, and prohibits those outside of the city to receive the same benefits as their urban-hukou-holding counterparts.
  3. Many children are left behind in the countryside and often have little to no family support; in fact, most are raised by their grandparents and have little contact with their parents. According to a 2013 survey in Shandong, “75 percent of [left-behind children’s] parents visited home just once a year during the Spring Festival.”
  4. There are around 36 million minors who will join the next generation of migrant workers. Many included in the new generation of migrant laborers — the children of current migrant workers — have a strong desire to assimilate to the city. However, many of their urban-hukou-holding counterparts do not view these populations as “one of them.”
  5. A study conducted in 2013 showed that of 300 Beijing public and migrant schools compared to that of rural schools in Shaanxi, rural schools had twice the amount of qualified teachers than migrant schools in Beijing.
  6. The Chinese government recognized that migration brought numerous negative consequences to many migrant children. Although the State Council passed the State Council’s Decision on Reforming and Developing Elementary Education, the State Council stated, “We should pay more attention to resolve the problems of migrant children to have compulsory education…We should adopt various ways to resolve the problems and protect migrant children’s right to have compulsory education in laws.”
  7. Numerous NGOs have worked with the government to improve conditions for migrant children. For example, UNICEF has began working on a pilot project targeted at improving migrant children’s access to education and healthcare in the city.

Room to Grow

These facts about migrant children in China represent migration’s profound impact on a country and its people. Although China has made leaps and strides to recognize the issue, there is still work to be done to ensure that the next generation receive the same benefits and opportunities as any other child.  

– Emma Martin
Photo: Flickr