This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Children are the Future--Chinese Version

There is a large urban core of Chinese who have grown up being considerably better educated than their parents, and who are driving China forward. However, this week's Economist reports that there are still a lot of Chinese children being left behind.

THE greatest wave of voluntary migration in human history transformed China’s cities, and the global economy, in a single generation. It has also created a huge task for those cities, by raising the expectations of the next generation of migrants from the countryside, and of second-generation migrant children. They have grown up in cities in which neither the jobs nor the education offered them have improved much.
This matters because the next generation of migrants has already arrived in staggering numbers. Shanghai’s migrant population almost trebled between 2000 and 2010, to 9m of the municipality’s 23m people. Nearly 60% of Shanghai’s 7.5m or so 20-to-34-year-olds are migrants.
The problem lies with the hokou family registration system, which means that people whose families are registered as rural are considered rural, even if they were born in a city. This effectively shuts them out of the same educational benefits provided to children whose families are registered as urban.
In 2010 Shanghai was home to 390,000 children under the age of six who were officially classified as “migrants”.
They are fated to grow up on a separate path from children of Shanghainese parents. Migrant children are eligible to attend local primary and middle schools, but barred from Shanghai’s high schools. They receive better schooling and social benefits than their parents did, and some pursue different types of work (see next story), but their status and their education are still more likely to lead to an assembly line than a university classroom.
For years reformers have called for changes in the hukou system. Children with a rural hukou want to lead a better life than their parents did. Many have never worked on the farm, but the system denies them a fair chance to move up the ladder.
This is unlikely to change soon. First, China’s factories still need large numbers of migrants, and the system now in place ensures that many of them will seek work there. Second, Chinese cities have welcomed migrants without a coherent plan to educate them. Shanghai had 170,000 students enrolled in high school in 2010, but there were 570,000 migrant children aged 15 to 19 living in the city who were unable to attend those schools. “The Shanghai government needs to provide its educational resources to the locals first,” says Xu Benliang, deputy director of the Shanghai Charity Education and Training Centre, which teaches young migrants how to get on in life. Mr Xu says the centre tries to tell migrants: “Don’t complain about things that you can’t change.”
This doesn't bode well for the future of China, unless the goal of this nominally communist country is to heighten the already growing inequality in its younger generation.

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