China Focus: Poverty alleviation programs bring parental love to left-behind children
LANZHOU, June 2 (Xinhua) -- On a chilly winter night in 2008, Niu Lijuan left her home. After kissing her four-month-old baby, the 24-year-old mother with tears running down her cheeks, set out on a journey to a city about 2,400 km away for a decent job.
"I of course preferred to stay at home with my child, but there were few factories and money-making opportunities in my hometown," recalled Niu, a villager in Gangu County, northwest China's Gansu Province. "To live a better-off life, I had to leave home."
Following in her steps, Niu's husband also headed for Shenzhen, a coastal economic powerhouse in southern China, one year later. The couple were among the millions of parents who live in poverty-hit parts of China and choose to leave their children behind and venture out to larger cities for a job with decent salary.
In recent years, as China makes efforts to eliminate poverty, a large number of programs have been launched in impoverished regions across the country. Many poverty alleviation programs have become new power engines for local economic growth, created jobs for the local labor force, and brought parental love to left-behind children after their parents find jobs in the hometown.
Benefiting from those poverty relief programs in 2018, Niu sought a job at a garment factory within a ten-minute drive from home. She can now work at her hometown while looking after her children.
"Cooking, tutoring, and accompanying my son as he grows up, I would not miss any family time," said Niu.
In 2008, Niu left her hometown for Shenzhen where she worked at a garment factory.
"I put my son's photo under my pillow. I took it out when I felt homesick," Niu recalled. "I often spoke to the photo saying I would go back home once I make enough money."
As the days became years, the nostalgia only became more intense. During the Spring Festival of 2011, Niu returned home for a holiday and noticed her son's reticence.
"He talked little and even avoided me when I approached him. At that moment, I realized that things have to change and I have to come back home to raise my child myself," Niu said.
Niu's son was not alone. As of August 2018, China had 6.97 million children left behind in rural homes by their parents working as migrants in large cities, down from 9.02 million in 2016. In Gansu Province, there are still about 60,000 left-behind children.
WORKING AT DOORSTEP
For Niu, returning home was a tough decision.
"In Shenzhen, factories are everywhere, locals can work and live with their families," she said. "I wished my hometown could be like this."
In recent years, labor-intensive industries have begun to move west due to rising labor costs and industrial upgrading in eastern coastal areas. Gansu Province took the opportunity to introduce labor-intensive industries, creating huge employment opportunities for locals.
Supported by poverty alleviation policies, Gansu also opened "poverty-relief workshops" to help migrant workers work closer to home.
Niu's dream of working at her doorstep came true in 2018 when a garment factory was established in her township. Sewing skills have been her forte and Niu applied for a job in the factory once she heard the news.
"Those workshops enable women from rural areas to land a job near their homes, become a bread earner, and take care of their children," said Zhang Weilin, owner of the garment workshop.
Gangu County has so far set up 52 such workshops in the countryside, employing over 30,000 workers, including a poor population of nearly 1,000.
Like Niu, 960 working mothers have returned from large cities to find jobs at these workshops, helping reduce the number of left-behind children in the county by nearly 1,700.
"Now I can also earn a high income at the doorstep," Niu said with a smile. "More importantly, I can spend more time with my children as they grow up. It is the happiest thing." Enditem