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«Juanwen Yuan Thesis committee Thesis supervisor Prof. dr. A. Niehof Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households Wageningen University Thesis ...»

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Households of the 1970s cohort have the highest and those of the 1990s cohort have the lowest income from crops (see Table 7.20). Income from the three main crops is significantly different, as discussed above. Usually, households of the 2000s cohort give land to their parents to manage, according to most FGDs. Their crop income is not so low, because their parents give the product income to them. Households in the 1990s cohort, however, manage their own land and depend on their parents less. They have formed their own households many years ago and their parents usually give them less help. Once these households of the 1990s cohort have a migrant, they do not have enough energy to manage other crops and thus get less income from other crops.

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7.2.3 Migration Migration is very common in the sampling households. Here, I would like to categorize migration into two categories. The first is long-term migration, in which the migrant leaves for more than three months and usually works in a place far away. The other is the short-term migration/circular migration/commute: the migrant usually works in a nearby place and may commute, or come back for no longer than one month in each circular migration period and stay outside fewer than three months. Both migrated and circular workers are regarded as migrants.

In this research, I will treat the circular migration households and migrant households separately, because circular workers can still engage in agricultural production, while migrants cannot.

One hundred and thirty-six households have migrants or circular workers.

Based on the criteria of long-term migration and circular migration discussed above, three types of households can be categorized: long-term migrant households (Type 1), short-term circular migration households (Type 2), and nonmigrant households (Type 3) (see Table 7.21).

The long-term migration household (Type 1): the migrant in this household goes off for more than three months and usually works in a place far away, which makes it impossible to come back frequently. These households may also have a short-term circular worker.

The short-term circular migration household (Type 2): the circular migrant in this household usually works in a nearby place, and may commute or come back often.

He or she usually stays away for no longer than one month in each circular migration period, while the total circular migration time is less than three months each year. There is no long-term migrant in this kind of household.

The non-migrant household (Type 3): there is neither migrant nor circular worker in this type of household.

The average household size is 4.63, without big differences between the three types. The difference in education of the household head is significant: for non-migrant households (Type 3), the average number of years of education is 7.7, while it is only 6.47 years for Type 1. Most households in Type 1 are from the 1970s cohort. The aged couples are usually less educated. In Type 1, 30 households have both migrated and circular workers. These households are usually from the 1980s cohort. Other characteristics of the survey households will be discussed below.

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are concerned. They migrate because they can earn money for a better life and for covering the costs of their children, even though they meet problems during the migration process. At the same time, they are concerned about land management, their children’s education, and care for their parents. In the next section, I will discuss the migrated household more thoroughly.

7.2.4 Migrated households As discussed in Chapter 5, during the conduction of the survey, we met members of migrated households because they came back for the Spring Festival. We did an additional survey among 24 migrated households. We defined a migrated household as a household of which both husband and wife have migrated, with or without their children. In most cases, the children were left at home with their grandparents. These children are called ‘left behind’. These households are still registered in this municipality as farmers and still have land in the villages.

We interviewed 24 migrated households, including 17 husbands and seven wives. The average age of the interviewee was 33.3. The oldest interviewee was 45 and the youngest was 26. Eighteen interviewees were younger than 35 and only three interviewees were older than 40.

Based on household formation year, the migrated households are mainly from the 2000s cohort, namely 11 of the 24 households. There is no migrated household in the 1970s cohort. Four households are from the 1980s cohort and nine households are from the 1990s cohort. Eight households are in life stage 1, 14 households are in life stage 2, and two households are in life stage 3 (see Chapter 5) (Table 7.22).

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All migrated households are de jure male-headed households. Nineteen households are both de facto and de jure male-headed, only five households are de jure maleheaded and de facto female-headed. This shows that the husband is still the main household head if both are together. The migrated household size varies from three to seven, while the average household size is 4.25. Other characteristics are listed in Table 7.23. The average education of the household head is 7.42 years. The average number of adult labourers is 2.83. The average number of children is 1.67 and the average number of ‘left behind’ children is 1.41.

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Migration time Table 7.24 shows that migration has become more popular among the households in the past five years. Twenty-three households migrated within the last five years and only one household migrated more than five years ago.

Reasons for migration Table 7.24 shows that the main reason for migration is a lack of money, which 18 households mentioned. The second reason is land pressure, as indicated by 13 households, while eight households mention that opportunity is another reason.

Opportunity usually means that relatives have already become familiar with the factory in the place of migration and can help them find a job, which acts as a pull factor to attract these couples to migration.

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The migration of the interviewed couples cannot be explained by their higher education because the average education of the migrated household head is similar to that of other household heads. Most answered that they could not make as much profit from agricultural production as before because of a higher input, which forced them to migrate. One young migrated couple, Chen and Yi, mentioned that many elderly people coming from other provinces are working in the same flowermaking factory as they are. They mentioned that the reason for the Kaizuo elderly to not go off is that they have no confidence and are worried they will not find a job. It is true that more factories prefer to employ younger migrants, especially when they are below 35. In several FGDs of cohort 1 and cohort 2, the elderly

138 Chapter 7

people expressed that, although they would like to migrate, they worry about the agricultural land and about finding a job. They also mentioned that they have to look after their children’s land, house, and children, which prevents them from going. They said that when nobody is at home, it means that the household is not like a household at all, because they regard their village household, not the temporary urban household, as their true household. Their land and their registration hukou are still in the village.

The survey data show that the most important motivation for migration is to earn more money for building a house and for raising children. Agricultural production becomes less and less profitable and people feel pressured to support their family. Their lives have improved after migration, but they worry a lot about their children and parents.

Remittances The average migrant’s income is more than 1000 yuan monthly. Usually, men get higher salaries than women do. Twenty-three households mentioned that their annual income is five to ten times higher than their income from agriculture. The income of only one household is even more than ten times higher. They had extra money to send remittances. Twenty-three households sent remittances back to their families, while only one household does not do so. This household was newly formed and the couple spent their money on building a house and their wedding ceremony.

All households sent remittances to support their parents and to pay for the tuition fees and maintenance of the children. They deposited money in their place of migration and their parents could then withdraw money from nearby municipal banks. In some households, where the parents are not familiar with the money withdrawal procedures, they ask the child who has not migrated to withdraw money.

In informal group discussions with older cohorts in Dabuyang village, Dongkou village and Guntang village, many parents mentioned that they received the remittance and mainly used it for their grandchildren, even though their migrated son and daughter-in-law told them to use it for their own benefit. Parents only used the money for urgent events, e.g. buying seeds or fertilizer, and hiring labourers. Parents mentioned that they gave more to their grandchildren after they had obtained cash by selling produce. Three households indicated that they sent remittances for building new houses. In informal discussions, many villagers said that they could not have built nice and new houses without long-term migration remittances.

Land management According to the survey, the land transfer is mainly done between relatives and in the same village. Eleven households gave land to their parents to cultivate. Three households rented land to siblings and three households rented to other relatives.

Only seven households rented land to neighbours and friends. Those who gave

139Livelihood portfolios

land to their parents usually get grain from them when the need arises. Those who rented land to others usually ask to be paid back with particular products. None of the households asked a rent fee.

Only four households were worried that the land they had rented out would deteriorate, while 20 households mentioned that there was no such effect.

Some households did not rent out their lands and let them lie abandoned, because fewer and fewer villagers like to rent land, especially in the past two years. Feng (2008a) has found that large land endowments may have difficulties in renting out land if there is no perfect land rental market. This may happen when migration is increasing. Some villagers do not realize what problems land abandonment may cause. During the interview, one man in Guntang village even told me that it was good to let land go fallow for a short period because the land can accumulate more nutrition in a fallow period. However, this thought is too optimistic. If land is left fallow for a longer time, this may have a negative impact.

Migration problems The survey shows that the largest difficulty migrated couples met during the longterm migration process was bad living conditions. They are not used to the climate and food in the working places. Some people got sick but could only take a little rest, because they wanted to earn more money. Many couples worry about ‘leftbehind’ children and parents. About 90 percent of the surveyed households installed a landline for convenient communication with migrated parents and ‘leftbehind’ children. Three interviewees mentioned that working conditions were uncomfortable. Two people stated that the education fee for their children’s schooling is high. Only two households experienced no difficulties. All respondents said that they overcame all difficulties while they tried their best to earn more money.

Migrating back None of the couples in the survey said they would not come back. Similar to what Lou (2004) mentioned for China, most migrants never think of migrating to the city permanently. Only one person mentioned that it is not clear when he will come back, because he needs enough money to build a house. He just formed his household and the son is only eight months old. Most households plan to stay away longer than two years. Only three households planned to come back the next year. Eleven respondents replied that they will return within five years, while nine respondents will be back five years later. Those intending to return soon put forward health problems as a reason, or that their parents and children really need to be taken care of. Two male respondents said that they will continue their migration and that their wife will be able to return anytime soon. They think that it is better to have one person at home to take care of their children, parents and land.

Twenty of the 24 couples mentioned that they had not learned any useful skills and will only be able to work in farming after their return. They usually

140 Chapter 7

conduct non-farming activities when they are away. After her investigation of migrants in Hangzhou, Huang (2005) has concluded that women do not learn useful skills. People come back and continue to work in farming. Likewise, Lou (2004) has found that most women came back and still live as farmers. Two households had no planning because it is not clear when they will come back, while only two households plan to go into business.

Following below are three cases to illustrate the issues of migrated households. These households were randomly selected for an in-depth interview.

The three cases are only from the 1990s and 2000s cohorts because the 1980s cohort contains only a few cases and the 1970s cohort contains none. Their household’s daily costs are higher because of a household member’s illness or the maintenance cost of the children. Their main motives for migration are that they are looking for better living conditions and want to escape the low profits of agriculture and small landholding. They earn money and most couples send remittances for taking care of their children and parents. They mainly give land to their parents and relatives to cultivate. Yet, their future plan still is to come back to their hometown to work in agriculture; they are not planning to stay migrated forever.

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