Migrants are dumping their infants because they can't afford to keep them Cleaners Yan Sifu and Mao Liang made a sickening discovery when they tried to find out what was blocking a public toilet in Beijing last month. It was a newborn baby. Baby girls are often abandoned by rural families who have a preference for boys to carry on the family line. But as more labourers move to cities looking for work, the practice - in a rather twisted form - has arrived with them. Officials are reluctant to discuss the problem, but experts have estimated that between 20,000 and 100,000 babies are abandoned every year. Some female migrant workers are dumping their babies partly because they cannot afford to keep them in the cities. A recent report in the daily Beijing Star said the capital's Hepingli Hospital received more than 50 abandoned babies in the first four months of the year. Last week a 20-year-old woman from Henan province received a five-year sentence for suffocating her baby and throwing him in a rubbish bin. She said the baby's father had left her and that she felt ashamed of the pregnancy because she was not married. Last May a 22-year-old migrant worker in Beijing received a two-year sentence for abandoning his baby outside a park. During his trial, the man wept and said: 'There was no way out for me. I didn't mean to harm the baby.' The problem is unlikely to go away in a hurry. A survey of about 1,000 female migrant workers by the Shanghai Academy of Sciences' Family Planning Centre in February found that as many as 47 per cent of respondents had become pregnant before marriage. Wang Liyao , senior researcher of the Anhui Academy of Social Sciences, said most migrant workers abandoned their babies because of the stigma of having children out of wedlock, and because of financial difficulties. 'People who abandon their babies are usually financially and emotionally unprepared to get married. They don't abort babies in time due to a lack of both knowledge and money,' he said. 'They don't regard the baby as a human life, and so [they] don't consider killing the baby as murder.' Professor Wang said the police were not doing enough to find the parents of abandoned babies. 'They don't spend enough energy on these cases, and do little more than post a small notice to show that they have tried,' he said. 'But the scar of being abandoned will accompany these children for their whole lives.' Professor Wang said the migrant workers needed both education and a welfare system. 'If they know that they can receive health care and if society is more tolerant of babies born out of wedlock, we can reduce the number of children abandoned.'