Fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal today on China's "Left Behind Kids."
While we hear about China as the rising Asian economic powerhouse, we do not often contemplate the socioeconomic impact of what is occurring there on Chinese families.
As China rises to economic superpower status, more than 250 million migrant workers pour from the poor rural parts of China to the cities to supply the relatively cheap labor to keep manufacturing humming and the economy brimming with growth.
Those left behind are 61 million Chinese children, who are growing up without one or both parents.
One in five Chinese children haven't seen their parent(s) for at least 3 months.
But laws in China prevent children from coming to the cities with their parents in order to stem the flow of migration from rural areas.
Chinese parents are saying, "We'll go wherever we can get the highest pay,"
Children are saying, "What's the big deal of having no mother anyway? I can grow up without a mom."
So while smog and pollution is spoiling beautiful China cities and harming people's physical health, the greater concern is that children are missing out on the loving, bonding, caring, and guidance that comes with a regular parental presence and good sound parenting from them.
Understanding that strong parent-child relationships are critical to the formation of mental, emotional, and spiritual health of the children, the numbers and severity of Chinese children that are missing out on this is of great concern.
While some children may be okay under the care of able grandparents along with regular visits or calls by parents, many others children, who don't have this, could end up having serious mental and emotional problems.
Already "more than 70% of children in rural China show signs of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression."
And as is often the case, anxiety and depression turn into resentment and anger.
With tens of millions of left behind children being forced to fend for themselves and hundreds of millions of migrant parents living in "dormitories, tents, or bomb shelters" away from their families and homes, what we have here is a bonafide socioeconomic ticking time bomb.
Political pundits often point to the concern of China's power elite that the people will rise up against them and the Communist Party,
but I think the far bigger concern is to those outside of the system altogether.
In my mind, the destruction of the core family will ultimately result in a tsunami of frustration, anger, and a weakening of social values.
Moreover, this could very well spillover and lead to a dangerous rise of militancy, where people do not want to lash out against their political system or leadership, but rather against everyone else who took the goods that left them economically richer, but poorer in just about every other way. ;-)
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)