Left-behind children refer to those whose parent or parents go to work as migrant workers in bigger cities and leave them behind in the care of one parent, grandparent(s), or other elder relatives in rural villages.
This has been a result of China’s economic reform and development of over more than 30 years, accelerated urbanization process, and strict household registration system. Since the mid-1980s, many young people from rural China came to work in bigger cities. Restricted by China’s household registration system, most of their children cannot live with their parents and go to school in the cities and have to stay behind in their rural hometowns. According to the 2014 statistics of All-China Women’s Federation, there are more than 61.05 million left-behind children in China, and 9.21 million of them cannot even see their parents once a year. Many of them suffer from emotional, psychological, and behavioral problems and have difficulties in life. On June 11, 2015, four left-behind children took their own lives by drinking poisonous pesticides. The youngest of them was five years old and the oldest thirteen. As a special vulnerable group, their livelihood and welfare have been an unavoidable social problem needing attention and action to help from every sector of society. This series of photos focuses on the left-behind children in remote parts of western China as a sample of this population.
© Fan Li, China, Shortlist, Professional , Contemporary Issues, 2016 Sony World Photography Awards