The Hot Zone
China's newly announced air defense identification zone over the East China Sea aims to shore up national security
Current Issue
· Table of Contents
· Editor's Desk
· Previous Issues
· Subscribe to Mag
Subscribe Now >>
Expert's View
Market Watch
North American Report
Government Documents
Expat's Eye
Photo Gallery
Reader's Service
Learning with
'Beijing Review'
E-mail us
RSS Feeds
PDF Edition
Reader's Letters
Make Beijing Review your homepage
Hot Links

cheap eyeglasses
Market Avenue

Cover Stories Series 2013> Plowing Ahead> Archive
UPDATED: April 27, 2012 NO. 18 MAY 3, 2012
Feeding a Populous Country
A shortage of labor and land holds back Chinese agriculture
By Yin Pumin

Less attractive business

OFF THE FIELD: Migrant workers from the countryside look for employment vacancies at a job fair in Shanghai on February 9 (LIN CHAO)

Li Qiang, Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Tsinghua University, said that the outflow of young labor, including those with technological abilities from rural areas has also become a main obstacle to China's agricultural development.

In recent years, with continuous price hikes, the cost of farming has risen. The rising cost of labor, land and agricultural materials such as pesticides and fertilizers has squeezed the profits of farmers and greatly affected their willingness to plant crops, although the Central Government has taken measures since 2006 to lower taxation on the farming sector, increase farmers' income and support construction of agricultural infrastructure.

"Since farming is less profitable these days, more and more young farmers have left home seeking jobs in cities," said Zheng Fengtian, a professor at the School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development of the Renmin University of China in Beijing.

Statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that China's urban population exceeded its rural population for the first time at the end of 2011, accounting for 51.27 percent of the country's total.

Official figures show that China now has about 150 million migrant workers, 60 percent of whom are aged 30 or under. This group of laborers, born in the 1980s and 1990s, are better educated than their parental generation.

However, a survey conducted by Beijing Normal University last year showed that only 7.7 percent of young migrant workers and 13.3 percent of older workers want to return to the countryside. The proportion of the population engaged in agriculture dropped to 38.1 percent in 2011, according to NBS figures.

"A large amount of arable land is being farmed by women and the elderly left behind in rural areas," said Tang Rennin, Deputy Director of the Office for the CPC Central Committee's Leading Group on Rural Work.

With capable farmers moving to cities, more and more rural farmland is being left uncultivated. An MLR survey showed that about 2 million hectares of arable land in China are in disuse each year.

On March 26, the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research of the CAS released a report on rural development, urging the country to make full use of rural land and infrastructure abandoned by farmers who move to cities to find work.

"The untended land and infrastructure are becoming a major obstacle for the coordinated development of urban and rural areas," the report said.

The institute's surveys showed that a huge amount of rural land that was originally taken over for housing building now lies idle, and the use of land in many areas is highly inefficient.

The report estimated that 7.6 million hectares of land can be released for reuse if the country improves its rural construction land management and releases untended areas for farming and forestry.

"Up to one third of the land in traditional agricultural regions is not in use, being occupied by empty houses and abandoned farmland," said Liu Yansui, author of the report.

The number of rural residents could fall to 280 million by 2020, from 300 million now, according to the report.

The report urged the government to incorporate the management of "hollow villages" and optimized distribution of rural land into its general strategy to protect farmland and improve people's livelihoods.

According to the report, 16.5 million hectares of land have been allocated to farmers as residential land, which can be used by farmers to build houses, but they are not allowed to transfer it to others if they move.

"Most villagers would return the land if they could receive compensation," said Liu Weidong, a researcher with the institute.

Survey results in east China's Shandong Province show that about 90 percent of villagers think abandoned residential land is a waste of resources, while nearly 60 percent said they would be willing to return the land if they were adequately compensated.

In a pilot project being carried out in southwest China's Chongqing, villagers can trade their residential land after reclamation.

However, Li Maosong, Director of the Agriculture Information Office of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, believes it is very likely that most of the idle land in rural areas, especially those that are not far from cities, will be developed for construction of residential housing and shopping centers, instead of being used as farmland.

"More and more rural residents are shunning agricultural life and heading for cities. Therefore, it is impossible to develop much of the idle land for agricultural production," he said.

   Previous   1   2   3   Next  

Top Story
-Protecting Ocean Rights
-Partners in Defense
-Fighting HIV+'s Stigma
-HIV: Privacy VS. Protection
-Setting the Tone
Related Stories
-Super Farmer
-Cultivating Modern Farmers
Most Popular
About BEIJINGREVIEW | About beijingreview.com | Rss Feeds | Contact us | Advertising | Subscribe & Service | Make Beijing Review your homepage
Copyright Beijing Review All right reserved