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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Left-behind women keep homes running (2)

By An Baijie and Xiang Mingchao (China Daily)

08:33, March 07, 2012

A left-behind woman works at a clothes factory with her child in Henan province in February. (Xiang Mingchao / China Daily)

"My parents-in-law are 84 and 77 years old, and both need to be taken care of all the time," Zhang said.

"My 11-year-old daughter goes to primary school, and I have to cook for her every day."

There were more than 47 million left-behind women in 2011, when more than 242 million migrant workers went to cities to find work, according to a report by the People's Daily in August.

More than half of the left-behind women contributed less than 30 percent of the family income, and most had to stay in their rural homes because they lacked the job skills urban companies were looking for, according to the report.

Hard task for women

Zhang, who for years has suffered from an inflamed gall bladder, said taking care of the children and parents-in-laws without her husband's help has not been easy.

"I really miss my husband, especially when I have to do some heavy household task all alone, like carrying the natural-gas tanks," she said.

The family gave up farming years ago because there was no time for it, especially since Zhang started working at the factory.

They rented out their 0.2-hectare plot to the other farmers in the village, and during harvest they get three sacks of rice from the tenants.

Zhang said she sometimes worries about her husband. "I am afraid he might drink too much wine with his work-mates, and I worry that it isn't safe for him to ride a bike in that urban area, where traffic accidents are reported from time to time."

There are 17 workers in Zhang's workshop, each a left-behind woman.

They compete with each other to earn as much as possible on the job, and after they get off, they all hurry home because "the children are waiting for their mums".

Liu Lanmin, 43, who works with Zhang, said she could not go with her husband to work in Guangdong province because she has to take care of her 13-year-old son, who goes to primary school in the village.

"Although all the older people in my family have passed away and my daughter has married, I couldn't leave the village because my son still needs me," Liu said.

"It's good to work in a factory near my home," she said. "I can take care of my son every day, and I can work on the farmland whenever it's needed."

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