China has a huge rural population facing huge challenges. 900 million Chinese farmers have to sustain their families on extremely small plots of land and carry the burden of exuberant local taxes and fees. Public services in rural areas are of low quality and are seldom free. Chinese countryside suffers from enormous hidden unemployment.
China not only has a big rural population, additionally it has very little arable land resources. With advances in modern agricultural technology there are far too many farmers and far too little work to do in the countryside. This results in immense migration waves to town and cities, which is estimated at 300 million people in Beijing alone.
I photographed for Action Aid some rural villages within 5 hours of Beijing and the life of some of the “floating people”, migrant workers in the city. Under Hukou, household registration, these workers from the villages do not exist; a blind eye is turned, as their presence is essential for the crazy growth of the city. This is effectively an economic apartheid, forcing the waves of rural poor to take the jobs that others refuse with low wages and no rights either on wages or housing. Consequently many families live in shanty towns and work 12 hours a day for less than . Their children are denied basic education rights and healthcare is nonexistent.