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UPDATED: December 1, 2014 NO. 49 DECEMBER 4, 2014
Is the Dearth of Young Rural Labor Worrisome?

Better choices

Guo Yuanpeng (Legal Daily): It's an undeniable fact that nowadays, fewer and fewer young people are engaged in farm work in rural areas. However, it seems unnecessary to worry about the lack of farmers to carry on with agriculture in the future.

When farmers no longer rely solely on land for opportunities, other new developments are expected to come. Feeling the approach of fresh opportunities, the government is now pushing forward new models of agricultural development across the country. For instance, it is standardizing the transfer of land-use rights to facilitate the creation of large farms.

Since cities are producing more and more jobs for people from the countryside, their separated arable land can be combined together to make big farms. Investors, including individuals and enterprises, will come to operate these farms. Farmers can be paid in rent for their land while living in cities. More importantly, the use of land by people of expertise will greatly help increase productivity, thus accelerating the pace of agricultural modernization.

Liu Yijie (China Youth Daily): Many people are worried about the current situation in rural areas where young adults are no longer showing any interest in working on the farms they grew up on.

Most young people are now working in cities, leaving behind seniors and children in rural areas. The reason for this lack of labor in the countryside is simple: They can earn much more money as migrant workers than as farmers.

Against the backdrop of rapid urbanization, the shrinking of the rural population seems an unavoidable trend. The priority now facing China is to increase input into infrastructure in rural areas, so as to narrow the income divide between urban and rural areas. When rural areas are fully developed, the lack of young farm workers won't be an issue anymore.

Zhang Zhang (Guangzhou Daily): Agricultural production is the basis for a country's development and the importance of agriculture is obvious. However, there is no need to overreact to claims that we'll have no farmers in the future.

Recent years have seen a continuous rise in agricultural production. When it comes to the proportion of the agricultural population, in countries like Japan and the United States, approximately 2 percent of their whole populations are engaged in agriculture. At the end of 2006, the number of people working in China's agricultural sector stood at 348 million, accounting for 27 percent of the country's total population. The comparison shows that we may have more farmers than we need.

Those who worry that no one in the future will plant rice for the Chinese might have seen only the reduction of farmers working directly in fields, while neglecting that in modern agriculture, the agricultural chain is composed of many parts, not only land farming. When fewer farmers are seen working on the farmland, new sectors related to agriculture are growing, such as the application of various technologies to the industry.

As for young people, whether it is because of the rapid pace of urbanization, or because of personal interest, their choice to move to cities is understandable. Cities provide more job opportunities and bigger space for personal development. With the mechanization of the agricultural industry, efficiency is growing, and thus fewer farmers are needed than before. Young people, who are quick at learning new things, can transfer to other industries and help develop these sectors.

The outflow of young people has led to problems like seniors and children being left behind without help. Despite these problems, however, the young still choose to go to cities in order to find a better life for themselves and their families. Therefore, the solution is more support for rural areas to bridge the gap between cities and the countryside.

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