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Youngsters may be left behind, but not forgotten

By An baijie and Xiang mingchao (China Daily)

08:09, May 31, 2012

Zhou Jing, one of the "left-behind children", stands at the door of her home in Fushan township, Henan province. (China Daily/Xiang Mingchao)

Editor's note: As the nation prepares to celebrate Children's Day on June 1, China Daily traveled to meet youngsters growing up in the countryside, and the migrant worker parents forced to leave them behind.

Zhou Jing sat in her yard watching a black cat play with two 10-day-old kittens. Her face was unable to hide her jealousy.

"Sometimes, it feels like I've been abandoned by my parents," she said with a sigh.

The 14-year-old sees her mother and father only once a year, if that. She said they don't even call on her birthday.

Like millions of youngsters across China, Zhou is a "left-behind child", a term used to describe the children of migrant workers who remain in the countryside and are raised by elderly relatives.

In Zhou's case, she lives with her grandparents, her half-sister and her cousin in Fushan township of Henan province. Her parents, both factory workers, are several hours away in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province.

He Enfu, Zhou's 68-year-old grandmother, said they work in the city to earn more money, whereas if they worked on farmland in the mountainous village they would hardly make any money.

"There are nine people in my family, and we only had 4.5 mu (0.3 hectares) of farmland, from which we could just feed ourselves and seldom earn any money," she said.

"The mountainous region is not suitable for factories and there are not so many job opportunities here," said Qiu Zhouhe, deputy head of Fushan. "As a result, most young people go to other places to seek better jobs."

He said there are 31,000 people in the town, and more than 7,000 of them have become migrant workers.

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