Workers Daily - "Poverty Stricken Single Parent Mothers in Chengdu Deserve Our Help"

Workers Daily 27 February 2003 - Gao Zhu

Lili is a single-parent worker from a Chengdu-based enterprise. She relies on a monthly 400-yuan livelihood stipend on which she that has to support her daughter who is attending junior-middle school and her elderly sick mother. As a result, the family frequently find themselves going to bed hungry.

This was a common scenario revealed by a survey into the situation of single-parent mothers at various employing units conducted by the Chengdu Federation of Trade Unions (CFTU). Lili's case is not an exception but representative of many struggling single mothers who urgently need our attention and support.

The CFTU's recent survey into the lives and attitudes of poor single-parent mothers showed some clear results. Eighty percent are divorced; ninety percent are bringing up children and thirty percent are also caring for elderly parents. Seventy percent had a monthly income of less than 200 yuan and just thirty percent are in work. Less than thirty percent are receiving a livelihood stipend on a regular basis and ninety percent had not received any financial assistance whatsoever from the state or other official sources.

The survey pinpointed four major problems facing the women:

1. Basic livelihood: Despite economising in order to make needs meet, their standard of living has dropped to subsistence level.
2. Access to medical care and drugs: All of the women either won't or can't see a doctor for fear of the expenses this would incur. The result is that minor illnesses develop into major diseases and major diseases are simply left to fate.
3. Children's education: Many women are forced into a cycle of debt simply to pay their children's school fees. Some have reached the end of the road and have no where left to borrow money.
4. Employment: Most of the single mothers are no longer young and have low levels of education with just one skill. Combined with gender discrimination, this can cause great difficulties in finding work.

The survey also fond that state assistance to poorer sections of society is very generalised and that, by adopting a blanket 'across the board' approach, the particular difficulties of single mothers are often ignored. In fact the lack of an adequate and detailed response to the situation means that poverty-stricken single mothers have no way of extricating themselves from a situation that leaves them without adequate resources to help themselves

Some social commentators have pointed out that the solution lies in providing comprehensive workplace-based support along with targetted social welfare. Only by ensuring employment opportunities, access to medical care, access to schooling for children, social insurance and legal assistance when necessary will single mothers be equipped to pull themselves out of poverty.

Taken from 27 February 2003
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