NANCHANG, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- After being separated for five years, 12-year-old Wang Yi's dream of seeing his parents for the upcoming Spring Festival holiday was dashed after he was told that his parents failed to secure train tickets.
"I had hoped my parents could get back home earlier and stay with me until the beginning of next semester," said Wang, who lives with his grandparents in Tangxi village in the city of Yichun in east China's Jiangxi province.
Children like Wang are known as "left-behind children," or children whose migrant worker parents leave them to stay with friends or relatives while the parents seek work in cities far from home.
For such children, seeing their parents is something of a rarity. Most reunions occur around the holiday season. Some never see their parents for years on end.
"I can't remember my parents very well now," Wang said, adding that he looks at the wedding photos of his parents when he misses them.
Data from the All-China Women's Federation showed that China has about 58 million rural children living apart from their parents, or 28.29 percent of the total number of rural children.
Wang's father earns 3,000 yuan (481.5 U.S. dollars) a month working at a construction site in the city of Shenzhen, over 700 km away from his hometown. His mother also works there, operating cargo lifts.
"We couldn't secure train tickets and taking a coach would cost us about 800 yuan. It's too expensive," Wang's father said.
The high cost of traveling not withstanding, some workers prefer to continue working during the holiday season, as they are paid extra for working during that time.
Limited amounts of arable land and meager incomes in rural areas have forced tens of millions of people like Wang's parents to migrate to cities to seek relatively better-paid jobs, a situation that is typical in China's countryside.
"They wouldn't be able to afford tuition for my brother and I if they worked as farmers in my hometown," Wang said.
Wang has learned to take on many of the household chores that would normally be taken care of by his parents. He washes his own clothes, cooks and even takes care of his little brother.
However, a lack of parental care has led to many left-behind children dropping out of school. Some of them turn to the streets.
In November 2012, five street children who were found dead in a roadside dumpster in the city of Bijie in southwest China's Guizhou province.
The children, aged from nine to 13, were from the same extended family. Four of them were drop-outs and the other one also cut school often.
"More than half of the students in our school are left-behind children," said Zhong Ercai, headmaster of the Tangxi Primary School.
China's migrant worker population amounted to 253 million in 2012, of which 159 million were working away from their homes, according to a 2012 government work report.
Authorities pledged to help migrant workers better adjust to urban living at the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China held in November last year.
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