«Juanwen Yuan Thesis committee Thesis supervisor Prof. dr. A. Niehof Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households Wageningen University Thesis ...»
Case 1: the disease-suffering wife Yi (aged 31) and Shenbin (aged 31) migrated four years ago. They went to Zhejiang province. Shenbin has had respiratory problems since she was a child. They have two children, aged 12 and 7, left at home for the grandparents to take care of. Their paddy field is only three mu (15 mu=1 ha.). They rented it to a neighbour to cultivate and got 300 kg of rice from the neighbour in the past year. They migrated because they needed money to cure Shenbin’s illness and for bringing up their children. Yi got 1700 yuan per month and Shenbin got 1200 yuan.
They phone their children every now and then. The elder daughter usually answered, while the younger son did not say very much. He has developed a close relationship with his grandparents since his parents are not at home. They miss their children a lot, even though the grandparents take care of the children very well.
Wife Shenbin mentioned that her main problem was to find a cure for her sickness in their place of long-term migration. This is because the medical co-op management procedure is very complicated. It is difficult and more expensive to see a doctor in their place of migration. She travelled back several times every year to cure her disease. Most of their income was spent on travelling and seeing the doctor. She came back in October and would like to return to the village because it is easier and cheaper to see the doctor there, and she could then take care of her children, too. When I interviewed her, she was ill and stayed at home to rest.
Case 2: the migrated newly-wed couple Chang (26 years old) and Xiaofang (22 years old) met each other in a clothes-making factory in Jiangshu province. Both of them migrated at the age of 16. Chang got six years
of education, while Xiaofang only got one year of education. Both earn 1300 yuan per month. They got married in 2006 and their son is just eight months old. They are staying with his parents, even though they formed their own household, because they need his parents to look after the baby. They are planning to earn enough money to build their own house, which is the main purpose of their migration. It is not clear when he will come back.
They could not bring their son because he needs to be taken care of. They would be unable to earn more money if they have to look after their son. They missed their son when they were away, so Xiaofang came back in the harvesting season to take care of her son and help her parents-in-law with harvesting. The parents are older than seventy, but still help them to cultivate the land. They also worry about their parents’ health and the management of their land, but they have no choice and plan to migrate again after the Spring Festival, to earn money for a new house and for bringing up the child. They have only two rooms in the village, given to them by their parents when they got married.
Case 3: the couple with small landholdings Qi (aged 31) and Gaiyao (aged 28 years) just came back for the festival and were about to leave the next day when I interviewed them. This couple migrated three years ago to work in a toy factory. Three years ago, Gaiyao had a serious illness and borrowed a lot of money, which forced her to migrate to pay back the loan. She told me that she would not come back until she is old enough to find a job outside the village. Her husband has three older brothers and all got married after the land allocation. Each of them only got a limited amount of land, which produces insufficient yields to support four households. Their landholdings are the smallest in this village. Two brothers have already migrated. Gaiyao is illiterate but she is strong. She migrated earlier with another woman, and then she brought her husband and her younger child half a year later. The older child was left with its grandmother, even though the grandmother is 80 years old and is already taking care of two grandchildren. The land was rented to a brother to cultivate. She does not care about land very much because it is really a very small patch, two mu of paddy field and three mu of upland. She built a new house last year, which still needs to be painted. She said that she is still earning money to finish the house. I found that there is no furniture at their house, but they installed a landline telephone to be able to keep in contact with their leftbehind son.
7.3 Gender and livelihood portfolios Women and men differ, both in the labour they do and in their choice of livelihood strategies. In all the cohorts, the majority of the households are de jure male-headed households (see Table 7.25).
There are no de facto and de jure female-headed households in the 2000s cohort.
Examples of this type of household in other cohorts are those in which the husbands are government officials, have passed away, or are shangmenlvxu (see Chapter 6). None of these circumstances applies to the 2000s cohort in this research.
The survey shows that the work in the nearby factory is done by men, not by any of the women. Both husbands and wives attend the government projects (see Chapter 4) and they usually attend jointly (see Table 7.26). Women in the younger cohorts attend the project more often, but there is no significant difference between the cohorts. In all the cohorts, husbands and wives usually join organizations together, and there is no significant difference between men and women with regard to organization membership. There are many kinds of informal organizations such as zahui (see Chapter 4), which men and women attend because it is in their interest. Women may attend more credit and dancing organizations, while men may attend more formal groups, e.g. the village committee.
There are significantly more male than female migrants. The average number of male migrants within the households is 1.1, while that average for female migrants
is only 0.4 (Table 7.
27). The number of both female and male migrants differs significantly between the four cohorts. The number of male migrants in the 1970s cohort is higher than in other cohorts, and is significantly higher than in the 1990s cohort. The number of female migrants in the 1980s cohort is higher than in other cohorts, and significantly higher than in the 1990s and 2000s cohorts. All focus group discussions in cohort 1 and cohort 2 show that the main migrants in the 1970s and 1980s cohorts are the children in the household: “Almost all unmarried children go off to earn money and nobody wants to stay at home to work in agriculture. The older people also want to go off, but it is difficult for them to find a job because many factories only employ people below 35”. For these two cohorts, it is normal to have two migrants within the household, while there is usually only one migrant in the younger two cohorts’ households. In the 1970s cohort, the children are older; most daughters are already married and only the sons are still household members. In the 1980s cohort, most sons and daughters are still unmarried. For the circular work, there is only one wife from the 1980s cohort who did circular work with her husband when her husband had bid a contract to build a village road. All the other circular workers are men for each cohort. As mentioned before, people normally migrate to other provinces to earn money because it is difficult to find a job in the county. So, they rarely go to farther places and work only three months (as circular work). They normally work for longer than nine months. In the survey, there are only several wives of the 2000s and 1990s cohorts who worked outside for three to six months because they had to come back to take care of their children. If there is a job in nearby places, it is normally men who do that, such as mining, transportation work, construction work.
Women spend more time in agriculture than men do, especially in the younger cohort, because young husbands migrate more often (Table 7.28). Women have the responsibility for household work as well as for farm work. This is different from the findings of Jacoby, who found that: “women spend more time on average in
housework and non-farm business activities than in farm work” (Jacoby, 1992:
285). Rice and maize are the two major crops for the local people. Men and women pay more attention to these two crops and regarding this, there is no significant difference between the four cohorts. Most household members try their best to return in order to work on these two crops even if they have migrated, or households exchange labourers to finish the tasks for these two crops. With regard to other crops, however, the working hours are not the same for men and women.
Younger men usually migrate long distance or leave for circular work outside the busy season, leaving the younger women to do more work. If the households are not migrated households, men’s and women’s tasks to care for the two major crops are not significantly different. For them, the planting and harvesting periods of rice and maize are the busy seasons, and the other periods are the non-busy seasons.
Women more often raise animals than men, the same as Jacoby (1992) has found in the Peruvian Sierra. They also make more decisions. This is similar to what Chen (1996) has indicated: female Chinese farmers often make decisions, not because they have the power base to do so, but simply because they have to when the husband has migrated.
7.4 Conclusions The assets and resources of the four cohorts are different. Older cohorts have more labour force and most of the children can feed themselves. There are large differences in landholding between the 1970s and 1980s cohorts: the households in the 1970s cohort have more land than the 1980s cohort, while more households in the 1980s cohort rent land. Although migrated households have smaller landholdings, this does not necessarily mean that most migrated households have less land than others. Siblings of the younger cohorts live farther away than those of the older cohorts and the younger migrants migrate through the introduction of
146 Chapter 7
these relatives and friends. The livelihood strategies of the four cohorts are not the same. The main livelihood strategies are farming and migration; only a few households have other main income resources. The younger cohorts earn more income from non-farming activities. Younger cohorts prefer to migrate; most households in the 2000s cohort are migrated households. Households in the 1990s cohort, however, leave the wife at home to look after the land, the elderly, and the children. There is almost no migrated household that wants to stay away forever.
Most consider it as a temporary strategy to earn more money. The migrated households rarely work on agriculture during migration and rarely learn other useful skills for any future development as well, so they can only come back to continue farming. Their migration income is mainly used for building houses and to pay the children’s education fees. Some households rent out land because of a labour shortage, but this does not mean that those who rent those lands have extra labourers. Rather, they hire people to cultivate it, they have machines, or they abandon bad quality land and rent good quality land. This finding is similar to what Feng (2008b) has found: households renting land achieve a higher technical efficiency.
Older men and women usually do not migrate, while only a few of them migrate circularly. Younger wives migrate less than husbands, but most wives have migrated before they got married. Almost all unmarried men and women migrate and have no interest in agriculture. After they get married, they still plan to migrate to earn money (Lou et al, 2004). When comparing migrated households with migrant households, I have found that the majority of households prefer to have one person stay at home to take care of their land, their house, and their children and parents. Usually women are left at home. Migrated households also live with the assumption that the wife can go back anytime, or that the wife has returned home more often during earlier migration experiences. In the informal discussion, I also got the information that the husband usually earns more than the wife does, because the husband usually has tasks that require physical strength (e.g. in construction), which are better paid, even in the same factory. Most children are left at home with relatives, especially grandmothers, to look after them. Migration increases married women’s burdens but also produces some benefits, such as money and women’s higher status (Lou et al, 2004; Murphy, 2004). Particularly elderly women, however, have more burdens.
This chapter describes household changes of different cohorts after the implementation of the Household Responsibility System (HRS). These changes include marriage, household formation, household composition, and residence.
Changes also occur with regard to the livelihood portfolio of households, their land use, and cropping patterns. Gender roles change in different cohorts. This chapter also discusses the motives for migration for different households, the impact of the HRS on households in the 1970s and 1980s cohorts, and the impact of migration on all cohorts. The issue of food security is also addressed for both the collective period and during the early stage of the HRS. The data used for this chapter mostly come from thirteen Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) that were held from July to September in 2008.
8.1 Marriage and household formation changes Marriage and household formation changed after the implementation of the HRS.
The HRS gives rural households the autonomy to manage their own production, freeing up more labour, especially during the non-busy season. Both short-term circular work and long-term migration are increasing. Migration gives younger people more opportunities to meet each other. A diversified and increased income allows couples to have a good start during their household formation stage.