This past December, the Chinese government stated that it would allow migrant workers that moved from rural areas into cities to reduce the number of children left behind.
Currently, under the hukou system of household registration, Chinese households are registered as either urban or rural and can only access public services in their hometowns. As a result, around 61 million children are left behind by migrating parents who cannot afford urban life. The majority of these children live with extended families but 10% of them are forced by circumstances to live alone without adult supervision. There have been reports on cases of children exploited, sexually abused and bullied. A staggering case of four siblings committing suicide made headlines last year.
The new system of household registration includes government subsidization of social services done by social workers and volunteer groups, reinforcing rules regarding parental supervision, and emergency protocols for child abuse.
Once the government implements the new system of household registration, migrants who apply and are accepted will reap the benefits of public services like healthcare and education at their working locations. Until then, local governments are directed to supervise children who are living alone. In addition, state council is encouraging active participation from government funded organizations such as schools and community leaders. The success of the system depends on the accountability of authoritative organizations. Skeptics believe that this will be a challenging demand to fulfill as local governments are “underfunded and overburdened.”