Shandong Postcard: Big Changes Sweep Rural China

Reuters reports on how the urbanization of China is transforming life for those left behind to till the land:

The virtual absence of any farmers under 40 speaks to China’s urbanization. Youngsters decamp as soon as they can to work in towns near and far, leaving their aging parents to till the soil.

With the rural labor pool shrinking, wages are rising.

A cheery woman about 50 tending a potato field said she earns 40 yuan ($6.15) a day. It’s not a king’s ransom, but it’s nearly twice as much as she was getting three years ago. At the side of the field stands her electric bike, a must-have for those with money to spare for the first time.

That she is laboring on someone else’s land points up another phenomenon sweeping China: many households are leasing out their smallholdings, resulting in bigger, more productive farms.

Farmer Li Tiejun said a peasant could earn as much in a month at a factory — about 2,000 yuan — as he could in a year harvesting 2 mu of grain.

“There’ll be more and more big farms because all the young people are leaving and no one wants to farm any more,” said Li, who works 60 mu of land — about 4 hectares or 10 acres.


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