Inequality in China: No Schools For Migrant Children

 

Some 14,000 children in Beijing are without education after Chinese authorities closed their schools, says the BBC. The children’s predicament reveals the inequalities in Chinese society: The children are all from migrant families. Under China’s household registration (or Hukou) system, migrant families must still be registered in their hometowns even if they live miles away in cities where they have found, or are seeking, work. Without registration, families are without state-subsidized services, like health and education, and children must attend cheap, privately-run schools that are mostly unregulated by authorities.

At the end of 2009, China’s population of rural migrant workers numbered estimated 229.8 million, of which about 149 million are thought to work outside their registered home area.

According to China’s Xinhua news agency, 24 schools in Beijing’s Haidian, Chaoyang and Daxing districts were closed just before they were to start a new term. Chinese authorities said the schools did not meet standards for construction, sports facilities and other safety issues; the head teacher of one school said that it was “unrealistic to expect migrant schools to meet these standards.” Another teacher commented that her 1,400 students now had no place to go to school. Zhang Zhiqiang, the founder of the group Migrant Workers’ Friend, said that the shutdown of the migrant children’s schools “highlighted discrimination against migrant workers,” while Xinhua said the issue had led to “wide public concerns over inequality in education.”

China’s meteoric economic growth over the past three decades since Richard Nixon led a delegation of US officials (including Vice President Joe Biden, who is currently on a 5-day state visit in China) has occurred “with largely unquestioned assumptions that increasing affluence would lead to a happier, wealthier and more equitable society,” notes the BBC.

But while some have reaped staggering economic gains, in most cases the wealth has not trickled down, with a growing disparity between those living in urban vs. rural areas:

In 2010, China’s Gini-coefficient – a measure of how wealth is distributed in a society – stood at 0.47 (a value of 0 suggests total equality, a value of 1 extreme inequality).

In other words, inequality in China has now surpassed that in the United States, and surged through the 0.4 level in the mid-2000s.

A Gini-coefficient of 0.4 is generally regarded as the international warning level for dangerous levels of inequality.

Some 50.3% of China’s mainland population (or 674.15 million people) live in rural areas. In 2010, their average per capita disposable income was 5,900 yuan ($898) which is less than a third of that of urban residents, who average 19,100 yuan ($2,900). Migrant workers hold jobs primarily in manufacturing and assembly and make an average of 1,417 yuan ($222), with unofficial reports saying that many earn less that 1,000 yuan ($157) a month.

The growing inequality in Chinese society accounts for the fascination in China with a recent photo of newly appointed US Ambassador to China Gary Locke. The former commerce secretary and governor of Washington was photographed by a ZhaoHui Tang, a businessman from Bellevue, WA, while wearing a backpack and buying himself coffee at a Starbucks at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Tang uploaded the photo to Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter (which is banned in China) — and the photo (it’s here was reposted 40,000 times and generated thousands of comments:

“This is something unbelievable in China,” said Tang, a Chinese-American citizen. “Even for low-ranking officials, we don’t do things for ourselves. Someone goes to buy the coffee for them. Someone carries their bags for them.”

Locke tried to use a coupon or voucher for the coffee, but the barista rejected it, Tang said. The ambassador then paid with a credit card, he said….

The image drew favorable online commentary in China, where government bureaucrats and business leaders are notoriously officious and status conscious and even a low-level county executive travels in a chauffeur-driven car with a retinue of secretaries and security officers.

Mocking the arrogance and corruption of officials has become a favorite online pastime, leading in some cases to disciplinary action against government and Communist Party leaders whose behavior was seen as particularly outrageous.

“What a pity China is ‘unable to manufacture’ this sort of public official,” said one commentator on the 0534.com website.

Journalists at a Sunday meet-and-greet asked Locke about the airport image as well as the “safety of China’s massive U.S. government bond holdings.” Locke commented that the airport Starbucks hadn’t honored his coupon (I think that’s happened to more than a few of us before) so he used his credit card. He also commented,

“I love doing things on my own,” he said.

Locke also won more approval points from the Chinese by turning down a Cadillac sedan that only had seats for him and his wife for a minivan to drive him and his family (including his three children) to their official residence in Beijing. Locke, the first Chinese-American ambassador to China, also carried his own luggage. As China Daily noted, President Barack Obama caused a bit of a stir 20 months ago when, after landing in the rain at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport, he carried his own umbrella.

China Daily observed that “perhaps it is time for Chinese dignitaries to follow the example of humble Locke.”

Related Care2 Coverage

Biden in China

Tibetan Monk Sets Himself on Fire in China

Is China Putting Profits Ahead Of Its People?

Photo of migrant children's school by ashengrove

13 comments

colleen p.
colleen p5 years ago

I don't know how care2 can stop those "spam-robots". and their other advertising is how they get to buy stuff when we cash in butterflies.

Brian P.
.5 years ago

What we are seeing in China is the reality of a relatively unfettered free market economy that offers few worker or environmental protections...exactly the same thing the corporatist right wingers are doing their best to dismantle in the US and Canada.

Jackie D.
Jackie D5 years ago

I'd rather be poor in China than poor in India - or the US for that matter. At least China is not riddled with crack addicts and it's safe to walk the streets.

Arthur Goh
Arthur G5 years ago

Berny P., Marilyn L...perhaps Care2 is allowing the concept of Human Rights to prevail (for Lily).

FYI, discrimination and inequality prevails everywhere. You just have to look a little deeper.

BTW Berny...the word is: polluting, not poluing

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L5 years ago

Just because China wants to sell on Care2 or anywhere else does not mean you have to buy. I find the ads, whoever they are, annoying and wish Care2 would block them.

It would seem from this article that China not only has a huge human rights problem it has a discrimination problem.

Yvonne C.
Von D5 years ago

We have contributed to this by allowing the corporations to take advantage of these and other disadvantaged peoples all over the world. All these trade agreements with other countries do nothing but allow the corporations to get a foot in the door to use them until their resources are used up or polluted all to hell, then move on. We inflicted this on the world and we are now also paying for it.

Berny P.
Berny p5 years ago

tHE CHINESE PEOPLE WILL DO WHAT THEY WANT ...WHEN THEY WANT ..

iT IS A SHAME BUT THEY VERY OFTEN ONLY UNDERSTAND FORCE.....

LOOK ON THIS SITE...CARE 2......MANY CHINESE ARE USING IT FOR SELLING THEIR FAKE GOODS AND SOMEHOW CARE2 ARE UNWILLING.....OR UNABLE TO STOP THEM........

tHIS DOES NOT HELP OUR JOB SITUATION!!

MIGRANTS SCHOOLS ARE LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE....IF YOU WANT THEM YOU HAVE TO FORCE IT.

I LEAVED IN CHINA AND HAVE WORKED VOLUNTARY IN THESE SCHOOLS AND THE CHILDREN WANT TO LEARN AS THEY KNOW THAT IT IS THEIR ONLY WAY OUT OF POVERTY!

Berny P.
Berny p5 years ago

TO LILY.....

STOP POLUING THIS SITE WITH YOUR FAKE CHINESE GOODS!

Berny P.
Berny p5 years ago

TO LILY I...

STOP POLUING CARE 2 SITE WITH YOUR ...FAKE CHINESE GOODS ....WE DONT NEED YOU!

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers5 years ago

This is exteme discrimination!