Hollow Lives: Women Left Behind in Rural China
Huifang Wu and Jingzhong Ye
(Corresponding author: Jingzhong Ye, email: email@example.com )
Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 16 No. 1, 2016
Abstract: This paper explores the situation of women left behind in villages when men out-migrate for work and what it implies for gender relations in rural China. It is based on questionnaire survey data that covers 400 left-behind women and extensive interviews in 10 rural communities. It reveals how the women take on multiple family responsibilities including mainly family care and agricultural production, and how they maintain their marital relationships in the context of a long separation. The discussion argues that even though the women’s unpaid work becomes visible due to the absence of men in family life, there is a reaffirmation and reinforcement of gender traditions; women are more solidified in the unpaid and low-paid field of work in this new era of rural social transition in China. Moreover, separated married life has made women more vulnerable. In the end, it points to the fact that rural women are experiencing a new and deeper form of exploitation of their labour. Thus they are among those paying a heavy price for the development in China.
Keywords: labour migration, left-behind women, gender, care, agricultural production
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