As living conditions improve among farmers, more are putting
emphasis on spending their money on education instead of clothing
Expenditures on consumers goods, such as agricultural materials,
clothing and food, have been uppermost in farmers' minds for
hundreds of years.
According to new surveys, however, more and more farmers in
China are changing their spending habits as the rural economy grows
and living conditions improve
Surveys conducted by The Consumers' Association (CCA) show that
44.3 percent of a farming family's annual income goes towards the
education of children.
That's 25.3 percent higher than expenditures on materials and
22.3 percent higher than money spent on home decorations.
While many rural consumers have set foot on the high-end of the
consumer spectrum, a great number of farmers still strive for a
Wang Zailan, in her 40s, is an illiterate housewife in Lianfeng,
Shizhu County in Southwest China's Chongqing
A black and white TV set is the only household electrical
appliances her family owns. Her elder son is now at university and
the youngest has just graduated from junior middle school.
To ensure the children's education, the family has accumulated a
debt of 10,000 yuan (US$1,200).
"I had a bitter life for a lack of schooling," she said. "I
won't expect my sons to go through a similar fate."
Another farmer, Ma Haiying, 32, once worked in South China's Guangdong
Province. She has now returned to her hometown in Qianxian
County, in Northwest China's Shaanxi
Province to look after her daughter, who is a grade three
student in primary school.
"To go to school is the best option for the growth of my child.
There are no young parents around me who fail to send their
children to school."
According to the statistics revealed by the CCA, age, income
level and gender are all the elements affecting farmer's outlook
The older the farmers are, the less enthusiastic they are about
"My husband supports me and he is still working in Guangdong
Province now. We want to save money for my daughter to go to
university," Ma said.
Ma Jin, Ma Haiying's 61-year-old father, explained the
traditional views espoused by many farmers.
"It used to be mean to spend such a sum of money on seemingly
useless education. But nowadays more and more elderly people like
me are also aware of the importance of education," he said.
Chang Yaowu, a sociologist at Chongqing University, said
agriculture is the foundation of China's growth. Eighty percent of
the population are farmers so changes in farmers' awareness is of
great importance, both to the development of the rural economy and
improvements in the country's quality of life, he said.
(China Daily February 3, 2004)