New policies to improve monitoring by China’s migrant worker parents and safeguard the rights of more than 61 million “left-behind” rural children are being drawn up by the authorities.

The State Council – the nation’s chief administrative authority – released a set of proposals on Sunday which aim to improve the protection and legal rights of these rural children.

The policies, drawn up on February 4, are expected to promote the healthy development of children and also refine existing laws and mechanisms to help strengthen the role of parental monitoring.

It is hoped that the number of left-behind children on the mainland can be reduced and that the changes will ensure all rural children have the right to safety, health and education.

The changes will see parents encouraged to actively fulfil their parental roles by taking their children with them, instead of leaving them behind, but – if that is not possible – to ensure that other responsible adults will look after them.

They will also see schools, community-level authorities and other government-affiliated organisations urged to play a more active role in monitoring the conditions facing left-behind children, provide services and support, and also report cases where children have faced abuse or gone missing.

Currently, left-behind children are left to fend for themselves in rural areas while their parents live and work away from homes – usually in more affluent manufacturing hubs such as the Pearl and Yangtse River Deltas.

Some children are cared for by their grandparents, but this has not helped to alleviate frequent problems left-behind rural children falling victim to sexual abuse, drugs, violence, bullying and injuries as a result of accidents.

Migrant workers are often forced to leave their children behind because of the high living costs in the prosperous areas where they work, or because of restrictions imposed by China’s rural household registration record system, known as a “hukou”, which identifies a person as being a resident in a certain area.

Chinese children from a rural area pose for a primary school photograph. Some ‘left-behind’ children are cared for by their grandparents, but this has not stopped many facing frequent problems, including violence and bullying. File photo: Reuters

This can prevent migrant workers’ children from getting a fair education that compares with their urban peers, including taking high school or university entrance examinations.

Despite continuing concerns over the living conditions facing left-behind children, which have regularly made headline news across the mainland over the past decade, no effective measures have been introduced until the national economic slowdown, which has led to numerous factories employing the migrants being shut down.

Apart from efforts to strengthen the monitoring of children by migrant workers, the policy changes will mean residential committees of all county and township governments will have to coordinate and inspect the well-being of left-behind children.

Meanwhile, education authorities and schools are to be held accountable for managing rural children’s education, psychological health, living and safety issues.

Local government-affiliated bodies, such as trade unions, women’s federations, and Communist Youth League of China will have to actively provide care for such children and their families.

More social work services, such as charity organisations, social workers and volunteers will be subsidised by government services.

By MIMI LAU Feb. 15, 2016 on South China Morning Post

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