The last decade has seen rural-urban migration grow on an unprecedented scale in China. Large numbers of migrant workers struggle to overcome tremendous obstacles in building new lives in the cities, while at the same time, new problems arise back in their home communities for those who stay behind: mainly women, the elderly and children. PCD has been searching for the best way to respond to issues related to labour migration, and eventually chose to base its actions in the rural sector, which is the originating point for migration, and ultimately bears the brunt of its impact.
PCD supports initiatives to make home return a viable option for migrant workers. We supported the formation and capacity building of self-help rehabilitation groups in Guangzhou, for migrant workers injured in occupational accidents. Members of the groups support each other in regaining their ability to look after themselves in daily life, and in preparing for reintegration into their own home communities. These mutual help efforts contribute to easing injured workers’ anxieties about returning home, particularly in regards to family relations, livelihood options and re-adaptation to rural life. A pilot project has also provided training to migrant women workers planning for livelihood activities back in their home communities.
Possibilities and solutions often come from home. In Fangxiang Township in Guizhou, PCD supports initiatives by the local team of the Hong Kong Zigen Fund to organise women taking action in addressing problems faced by communities due to the outward migration of a large number of productive labour-age people to the cities. The women form small groups and work with local students to conduct their own surveys to enhance understanding of the impact of migration on their communities. They discuss the findings with fellow community members, and consider what actions can be taken to respond to their common problems, such as heavy farm workloads, lack of support in supervising children and taking care of the elderly. Through the project the villagers learn that it is important to build up solidarity among women in the communities; nurture a sense of love of home among young people, and seek participation of the elderly in community activities.
In Yunnan, PCD and the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences supported an initiative to address the “brain drain” and to nurture local facilitators in Manpi and Ximan communities in Xishuangbana Prefecture. Activities were tailored for three groups of participants. They were young people, women and heads of families. Each group had their own program activities, such as exchanging information among young migrant workers, eco-house building, and learning of traditional cultures through the interaction of young people and heads of families. The project also contributed to the revival of the traditional culture of two ethnic groups: the Bulang in Manpi and the Aini in Ximan. The purpose of the project was to strengthen young people’s sense of identify and belonging to their communities, and to inspire them to seek a sustainable future in their home.
Whether staying at home or leaving for employment elsewhere, people’s agency in making their life choice needs to be respected. PCD supports local communities’ efforts to make informed choices. This is enshrined in the overall efforts to achieve sustainable ways of living in rural communities.