Children in China
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A video of a child being held in a cage while his mother worked has gone viral in China. Photo: SCMP composite

Boy held in ‘cage’ while mother works puts spotlight on inadequate childcare options in China

  • The woman said she had no alternative because the boy’s father does not take care of the child
  • It placed the spotlight on childcare difficulties that would force someone to make this decision

A video of a small child being kept in a “cage” underneath a metal pushcart prompted a discussion in China about how a lack of childcare options for poor people could push someone to make such an extreme decision.

In a 12-second video circulating online, the boy, who lives in Tongren City, in the southern province of Guizhou, is seen reaching through the bars towards the camera as he moves around what appears to be a makeshift cot. Signage in the video indicates that the mother sells iced jelly desserts for a living.
The unnamed woman told Wanxiang Media, a news company, that she feels bad for the child and understands he “has a tough life”. But, she said, it is the best of bad choices because the boy’s father “is the sort of person who does not care and only plays video games all day”.
The mother held this boy in the cage because she needed to be able to monitor him while she worked. Photo: Weibo.

She added that she allows her son to play outside the cage when there are no customers around.

The mother received a lot of sympathy online in part because the cage was kept clean, had a blanket as a mattress and there were toys placed inside it. Her situation seemed to point to a poor woman who struggled to find childcare alternatives rather than a case of child abuse.

One person wrote on Weibo: “This is pitiful. Don’t we have affordable childcare institutions?”

Another said: “Poor baby and poor momma. If I had one wish I would provide everyone with the basic means to live, without them having to sacrifice their peace and happiness to try to make a living”.

That being said, others were less sympathetic, saying a child should not live in these conditions no matter what.

The woman, who has another job when her son is sleeping, said her family struggles to meet even the most basic necessities and sometimes they have to skip meals to save money to buy infant milk powder.


How much does it cost to raise a child in China?

How much does it cost to raise a child in China?

As China faces a looming demographic crisis, many couples say one major hurdle for having babies is a lack of reasonable childcare options. Often, children are left with their grandparents while the parents work, but not every family has that luxury.

According to Sixth Tone, a mainland media outlet, Shanghai had 14,600 available slots for day care, which is far from sufficient in a city where 116,000 babies were born in 2021.

This serious supply-demand gap means the day care facilities that do exist tend to be expensive, putting them out of reach for people like this mother from Guizhou.