Our Priorities

The largest human migration in history is ongoing in China. The masses of rural residents moving to cities have been critical to China's rapid growth, but this demographic shift has also exposed nearly 100 million children to risks of harm.

Children who migrate with their parents often cannot access all essential health, education or other social benefits. Children left behind when their parents migrate are more vulnerable to injuries and neglect. Children affected by migration may face greater risks of violence, trafficking and labor exploitation.

China's household registration system (hukou, 户口) complicates the process of migration. For many reasons, migrant children often are not registered in their new urban homes, and they are therefore unable to access public benefits dependent on registration.

Children left behind by migration suffer the burdens of separation. Many see their parents rarely – often only once a year. Some live with grandparents who have limited ability to care for young children. Ten percent of left-behind children live on their own, or without any family members.

These left-behind children lack care, protection and guidance. The risks they face are both psychological and physical.  Their rates of childhood injury and accidental death are higher than that of their peers.

Improving the lives of children affected by migration

UNICEF and its partners were among the first to work on solutions for the problems surrounding children affected by migration. Collaborating with the National Working Committee on Women and Children, we have been working for more than ten years to improve such children's lives.

We contribute to pilot programs that test protocols for registering migrant children in urban areas so that they can access education, health care and other social services.

In rural areas with large numbers of left-behind children, we are piloting new approaches with local governments, schools and communities to ensure that these children receive the attention, emotional support, and community-based child protection services they need.

In addition, we help social service providers and migrant parents through trainings on children's rights, and by developing and distributing materials that help families improve their children's care and resilience. These materials include a Life Skills Education Manual, a Parent Education Manual, and a Child Information/ Orientation Handbook designed to assist migrant children in integrating into their new communities.

Making a difference

UNICEF's work to support children affected by migration has contributed to important reforms. With our support, China has recognized that migrant children have a right to an education, and has passed regulations to enforce those rights.

Our pilot project on registering migrant children is being replicated on a larger scale, allowing more children to access health care and education. Some cities that are common destinations for migrants have also allocated subsidies for migrant children's education.

We have also contributed to the establishment of eighteen Child-Friendly Spaces that provide social services targeted to migrant and left-behind children, including basic healthcare, education support and family education.

You can help ensure that children affected by migration have adequate social support and equal access to services. Take action by learning more about the migrant children in your own community. Or find out how you can support UNICEF's work today.

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