«Juanwen Yuan Thesis committee Thesis supervisor Prof. dr. A. Niehof Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households Wageningen University Thesis ...»
In FGDs 4A and 4C, some younger women from the 2000s cohort shared their ideas on this subject: “Staying at home is better because the weather and environment are better. We have more freedom at home as well. But we have to earn money.
The net profits from agriculture are decreasing. We need to build a house and pay for our children’s education. Sometimes, we also spend money on dying our hair and buying cosmetics”. They had experiences with migration (especially long-term migration) before they got married and show no interest in agriculture. They have no doubts about whether they can make enough money by migrating. Low agricultural profits are a big push factor for them to migrate.
8.6.2 Migration impact The impacts of migration on older and younger cohorts23 are different. People from the older cohorts usually stay behind to take care of the children and the land.
People from the younger cohorts always plan to migrate again, even when they are at home. They do not concern themselves with long-term agricultural production.
Of course, a greater burden is left for the people who stay behind.
Positive impact In the collective era, migration could bring households more work points to exchange for food. Nowadays, the impact of migration is much larger than on income alone. Migration also influences people’s ideas and behaviour.
Migration can increase one’s income. Most households built a new house by using remittances earned through migration, except for households from the 1970s cohort. Other than from migration, it is not easy for the villagers to find enough money to build a good house. Returning migrants also bring new ideas into the communities. For instance, some people who build a new house will even hire a designer to integrate modern ideas about decoration. The younger cohorts are more open-minded and are not easily bothered by small conflicts between villagers. In the past, the villagers had a lot of quarrels about petty things, such as a missing chicken or canal digging in the field. Nowadays, the open-mindedness brought in by returning migrants also influences the older cohorts and such quarrels have become rarer. Migration, especially long-term migration is very good for people’s general development. Male respondents in FGDs 1A, 1B, 1C, 2A from
the 1970s and 1980s cohorts agree:
“Migrants with only primary school are better educated than those who never migrate but finish middle school. Life experience is a good practice for young people. Younger people express their gratitude openly by saying thank you after Older cohorts are the 1970s and 1980s cohorts; younger cohorts are the 1990s and 2000s 23 cohorts.
you help them, which did not happen so much before. If there is a quarrel between young people, it is easier to persuade them to stop.” For the older cohorts, migration (especially long-term migration) also has a large positive impact. Their unmarried children can support themselves by their salaries and do not need help from their parents any more. Some children send remittances, so the households generally have more money to hire labour in the busy season.
Negative impact At the same time, migrants are frequently unhappy with the local life. Murphy (2004) has found that migrated women are often dissatisfied with their lives after their return to the village, despite increased material gains.
Children are influenced a lot by success stories about migration and want to go off to earn money if they do not do very well in school. As one woman from FGD 3A of the 1990s cohort mentioned: “our children always say that they will migrate if they cannot go to high school because their grades are not good enough. They know that migrants earn a lot of money, even if they did not study hard in school”.
The women are left behind to do everything at home. The older cohorts, especially the women, carry the heaviest burden. Chen, a 56-years-old woman in
Dongkou village said:
“The biggest problem is that I have to do everything: take care of three grandchildren, take care of the house, animals and fields. I have no choice and have to take the children with me to see the cattle and for other activities. Now, I am drying the rapeseed and I have to check it because it is going to rain.” Social activities in the village are decreasing. In the collective era, the villagers had more social activities, such as basketball matches. Activities were easy to organize in the past, because most people were at home. Now it is hard to organize anything. Only some women have grouped up for singing and dancing activities.
Young women have little knowledge about and experience with agriculture.
They do not value the land much, so there are also fewer conflicts about land.
Guang, a 25-year-old woman, used to work in a small decoration factory in Zhejiang province and met her husband there. Currently, she is taking care of their daughter who is just one year old. Guang plans to go back to the factory when her daughter is two. She is not interested in agricultural production and does not know much about it. She is staying with her parents-in-law and they help her to look after the baby. Her husband is still working in the decoration factory. The villagers nowadays have more money to buy fertilizer, hybrid seeds, and small agricultural machines, but land abandonment is increasing.
8.7 Social resources Social resources play an important role in rural households’ livelihoods. As discussed in Chapters 4 and 7, zahui is a very important informal organization to
help each other to mobilize cash and also for recreational purposes. This form of social resources also involves relatives, friends, neighbours, the community organization, and mutual trust. The following sections describe changes in these respects since the implementation of the HRS.
8.7.1 Changes in social resources During the collective era, social resources were mainly obtained from relatives, friends, neighbours, and the community organization. There was no zahui because people had no money to invest in this organization. After the HRS, relatives, neighbours, and friends got a lot of help in the busy season through an exchange of labour, while the community organization’s role has been decreasing. Until the 2000s, friends, neighbours, and relatives also helped building houses by contributing their labour for free.
In the 1990s, people needed more money to invest in their agricultural input because of the introduction of hybrid crop varieties. Villagers had to get local highinterest loans and mutual trust was very important. If a villager wanted to get a loan from someone, the lender should be able to trust that he could return the money with interest. In the recent decade, help from relatives has become more important because many children are left behind with their grandparents. Zahui has been increasing in the recent ten years, since people have extra money to put aside for important events, recreation, or urgent needs. It has also become easier to get a loan from a local credit coop because the government has issued policies to help rural development. Nowadays, the importance of help from neighbours is decreasing because many activities are paid in cash, instead of through a labour exchange. This also applies to help from relatives, as is reflected in the following quote from FGDs 1A, 1C, 2A, 2C. “If relatives help you for one or two days, there is no need to pay them. If they help for a longer time, you do pay them. The use of one’s relatives’ help is still widely spread, even if they live far away, because it is easy to communicate with relatives by telephone or by paying them a visit”.
8.7.2 The importance of social resources The importance of social resources is apparent in many situations. I will discus the main functions of social capital in the research areas in the following.
For urgent assistance When people meet problems and need urgent help, social resources can play an important role in solving the problems. Chen, a 57-year-old woman, lost her house in a fire in 1978 and she had nothing left. The village allowed her to cut trees to build a house, gave her rice to eat and allowed her household to live in the collective store house. Neighbours, friends and relatives helped with the construction of her new house.
For agricultural production In 1976, most villagers had formed small groups of five to eight households as one production group. This group was organized on the basis of location, which meant
that neighbours were part of the same group. They worked together in the fields.
The group members had close relationships with each other (apart from a few exceptions). Nowadays, the villagers usually organize different kinds of activities based on these groups.
Some better-off households have bought smaller agricultural machines, which they lend to good friends, neighbours and relatives. This solves labour shortage problems during the peak season.
For food security The participants in the FGDs from the older cohorts said that when villagers do not have enough food, they ask help from relatives, friends, neighbours, and the community. Rong, a 62-year-old woman in Dabuyang village, could not feed her four children in the collective era when we interviewed her as a key informant.
Because her health was bad, she could not earn enough work points, but her children were teenagers with healthy appetites. So she went to her sister, who lived in a better situation, and from her she got some rice and maize every year without having to return it. This helped her to manage the hard life during the collective era.
For new businesses In the past, when rural households needed money to go into business, it was hard to get a loan from a bank or credit coop. But if relatives or friends could provide financial aid, it was easier to go into business successfully. Chen stems from one of the richest households in the past in Dabuyang village. He had two brothers who worked in the county, who assisted him in borrowing several thousand yuan to buy a grain-processing machine in the 1980s. This machine was the first one in the village and nearby villages, so he started to become richer through his processing business.
For employment Migrants usually move together with relatives, friends, and neighbours. Migration with formal government assistance has become rare. Villagers believe what they hear from their neighbours, relatives and friends. Two married women from Dabuyang village migrated last year because they were introduced to their employer by their neighbour, who was a middle-level leader in the factory they work in. The two women said during the interview: “If he had not introduced us to the factory, we would not have moved there”.
For better education opportunities Local people nowadays attach great importance to the education of both girls and boys. They support the studies of their children as much as they can and invest a lot in it. There is no high school in the municipality and the quality of the municipal school is not very good. Villagers who want to send their children to higher education or a better school always ask help from their relatives. They may ask grandparents to take care of the school going children in another municipality or in the county. Or they may send their children to relatives already living there.
170 Chapter 8
Xiang, a 44-year-old woman in Dabuyang village, was dressed very nicely when we met her. She was going to visit her two daughters. Her youngest daughter is studying in primary school and lives with her eldest daughter. The eldest daughter got married in a nearby municipality, Guangshun. Xiang sent her youngest daughter to Guangshun, because the school is better there and her daughter can also concentrate better on her study without her playmates around.
8.8 Case studies In this section, I will discuss four cases, one from each of the four cohorts. Their household characteristics, household establishment, livelihood, land use, migration history, social resources, and gender issues will be discussed. These cases were selected based on the criteria of cohort and the migration situation (see Chapter 5).
Case 1: Di, 2000s cohort Di is 37 years old and her husband Pin is of the same age. They have three children. She has a relative in Dabuyang village and she came to buy rice seeds in Kaizuo in 1999. On that occasion, she met Pin and they got married in the year
2000. When they got married, her parents gave her 1000 yuan and she used her own savings to buy clothes and other goods. Pin got some money from his parents and they bought a TV, a washing machine and some furniture. They had their first daughter that same year and established their independent household in 2001. Di insisted upon this separation from her in-laws. They also got six mu of paddy fields and one mu of upland. They got three rooms, one cow and one pig. In early 2003, the second daughter was born and the youngest child, a son, was born at the end of 2003.
Di finished her eight years of schooling and then began to work in a restaurant. She rarely helped her parents with agriculture. She became a fruit vendor at the age of 21 and did not do much in agriculture before getting married.
Pin is a skilful man, who is good at house construction and water pipe installation.
In 1998, he migrated to Zhejiang province for one year. Because of their marriage in 1999, they stayed at home for several years. They had to take care of the children and the cultivated land. At the same time, they also started doing business.
Because this municipality is rich in edible fern, they began to collect fern from villagers and sold it to businessmen in nearby cities from 2003 onwards. It was not easy for them to make a profit in this line of business. Because they were not good at processing the fresh fern, most ferns decayed. They stopped two years later. Pin began circular work after that unsuccessful business. Because or his skills in house construction, the villagers always ask him to join in contract teams. After he had finished the sowing and harvesting, he mainly did this type of work. During that period, Di spent most of her time taking care of the children and agricultural production at home.