Thailand or “the Land of Smiles” has a warm climate with endless sun shinning upon plentiful fruit trees. It’s a country known by it’s multitude of extravagent Buddhist temples and extrordinarily friendly people. According to Thai culture, hospitality to family is valued above everything else. Maintaining one’s independence in life is of a lesser importance than taking care of the family. It’s a common gesture to welcome anyone who needs food and shelter into the household.
The family system is strong as grandparents, parents, children, as well as aunts, cousins, in-laws, and other extended family members tend to live in the same house or home system. It’s seen as honorable for the parents to work even if that means they have to be separated from their children. They sacrifice time with their kids to give their children a better life than they had with the money they earn. This in turn earns the parents a merit (In Buddhism, a result of good deeds that carry over the person’s lifetime).
Children with parents away having the higher percentage of 25% with developmental problems.
“Every child has the right to grow up in a caring, loving, and safe environment” expresses the head of UNICEF Thailand. A year studying the issue and findings are continuing to develop to show the effects of parental migration. In the first portion there was a 9% difference when comparing children with developmental delays. Children with parents away having the higher percentage of 25% with developmental problems.
3 Million, or about 21% of Thailand’s population, are left behind children being raised by extended family mostly in rural areas. 90% live with grandparents, most of whom have only a primary school education, and are at risk themselves of financial instability and mental health issues. These children are often behind in language skills in school and have behavior problems. Grandparents and young children have an age gap that often hinders their ability to relate to the pain they feel, which limits conversation and opportunity for personal growth.
“… I’m just thinking about making a bit more money here, then buy a house back home as soon as possible. Housing prices are too steep nowadays, still have to wait a few more years,” (Chinas Mack). Gao Changliang, a migrant worker, drove a taxi to provide money to his family. The mother stayed behind for the children but the family was fragmented. Living in the city is expensive. The city though provides the jobs the parents are looking for to earn money for their children to have a better quality of life. Gao Changliang and his family took an expensive high-speed train to be reunited with family for Chinese New Year. After the new year ends, the wife and children will go back to their hometown leaving the father behind to work in the city.
Parents are doing what they think is right to provide a better life for their children. In the past few years the number of left behind children in China has doubled. A very common phrase that is heard in stories from LBC is they see their parents only once a year during the Chinese New Year Festival, which happily is tomorrow. It is now the time of the year we may rejoice in knowing that many children will be reunited with their parents for a joyful holiday celebration. We must also be aware that they lack the emotional support the rest of the calendar year.
Growing up in a household with no parents has significant psychological effects. The mental health of the child is a factor that we have to be aware of, and the parents also have to acknowledge when making the choice to work in the city. Working away provides food, clothing, and an education – a better future for the child. Or does it?
1 in 7 children in one of the villages has migrant parents and live with their grandparents (tough times). The teachers say they need extra academic support. China’s strict residency laws prevent children from going to school out of their hometown. Professor Chengrong, academic and author, states “psychological and emotional problems are the most common,” (tough times). We can provide encouragement and support in their social life, emotional health, and education to the child left behind. Encouraging regular and meaningful communication between the parent and child is also a great need.
Left Behind Children often suffer from lack of guidance and supervision. Though well-supported financially by parents working in the city, it has been found that “without normal family guardianship and education, some of the children quit school at an early age and commit crimes,” (Chuanjiao). Loneliness and feelings of abandonment contribute to a neglect of their education. They turn to crime. The crime rate increases for left behind youth. For rural youth, it often is the case that they are not bailed out for that crime.
“Young people left behind by migrant parents, meanwhile, are more vulnerable to being incarcerated if they have no guardian. Their rural home towns lack resources to monitor children on probation, so they end up in prison. They also appear more susceptible to trouble in the first place. The Centre for Child-Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility, a Beijing partner of Save the Children Sweden, conducted a survey which found that 60% of left-behind children felt their parents were “not around” when they needed support,” (Economist).
Li Tianyi’s case is one that has spread throughout online media. Although Li has famous singers as parents, he is still a migrant and therefore was put in prison. In cases that deal with youth from rural areas the teenager is usually sentenced to a longer term in prison. Mr. Li was convicted of a crime of gang rape and was sentenced for 10 years in prison. His accomplices pleaded guilty and paid a large sum of money. They were “city-dwellers”. When the criminal is a former Left Behind Child from a rural area “Chinese courts are more likely to imprison rural and migrant youths than their city peers,” (Economist). City peers can pay the victim a compensation in place of imprisionment. The case of Mr. Li illustrates the urban-rural gap and what it means for those affected by China’s urbanization phenomenon.
Migrant youth do not have the benefits that urban youth are privileged with. Healthcare and social security is not accessible for the youth living in rural areas.
Unfortunately the hukou system makes it so that migrant workers have limited rights denying them services that only citizens of urban areas are given. It therefore decreases equality between migrant workers and urban citizens. In fact it prevents them from assimilating into the city. It is creating various living issues that have detrimental emotional and social effects on the workers. They are losing hope and struggling with feelings of loneliness and not fitting in.