7.1 Contribution to Food Supply, Employment and Income
7.2 Women in Rural Aquaculture
Aquatic products represent an important component of the food basket of the Chinese people. Since the birth of New China in 1949, the State has always given high priority to the production of aquatic products through the development of fisheries, with great emphasis on aquaculture development. In 1997, fisheries production reached 36 million mt of which aquaculture production was over 21 million mt, representing about 56% of the total fisheries production. Aquaculture is the fastest growing sub-sector of agriculture and it has made China the largest aquaculture producer in the world. In a short period of 50 years, aquaculture production has increased from 20 000 mt in 1949 to 20 million mt in 1997, an increase of 1000 times. In 1997, per caput availability of aquaculture product in China was estimated at 17.5 kg. This is a big contribution to their own food supply. China is now the largest producer, producing over 55% of the global aquaculture production.
There is a saying in China where no fish, there is no money. From ancient time people regarded fish farming as a highly profitable business and even more profitable than any agricultural activity. This old saying is still good.
Anhui Province devoted major efforts to expand rural aquaculture to develop rural economy. The aquaculture production reached 750 000 mt in 1995 as against 360 000 mt in 1993, doubling in two years. In 1996, there was another increase of 47.6%; the production reached 1.107 million mt and total output value stood at 6.7 billion yuan (at constant prices), accounting for 10.8% of the total agriculture output value. The vigorous development of aquaculture promoted an increase of local revenue; one tenth of local revenue in some counties came from aquaculture, and at the same time spurred the growth of processing, storage and transportation industries. Congyang was a poverty-stricken county, but in recent years, the county led its people to develop aquaculture, and combined flood control/irrigation with fish pond rehabilitation works. Part of the low yield paddy fields which yielded two crops of rice a year were transformed into one crop of rice and one crop of fish. In 1996, the fish production reached more than 40 000 mt with output value 350 million yuan, making up one third of the total agriculture output value. Taxes from aquaculture amounted to 15 million yuan. In China, in the last 20 years, about 100 million people have received benefits directly or indirectly from aquaculture. In 1997, the Chinese fishfarmer's/fisherman's average per capita income was 3 974 yuan (90.2% higher than that of farmers'), rising steadily from 1 051 yuan in 1987 (Table 11). In 1997, full-time aquaculture labourers reached 3.29 million as against 1.53 million in 1989, an increase of 115%; part-time aquaculture labourers even increased by several hundred thousands. That means in 8 years aquaculture created about 1.75 million jobs for villagers. Further development of rural aquaculture may help absorb the surplus labourers in rural China.
Detailed statistics of aquaculture household/labourer income are not available. However, information available on this subject from recent surveys are as follows:
In a survey of 1 139 aquaculture households in 7 cities and provinces (Beijing, Tianjin, Heilongjiang, etc.) in 1996, there were a population of 4 900 and 2 541 labourers (Table 11a). The per capita net income of that year was 3 425 yuan, and the average net income of labourers was 6 860 yuan, much higher than the average income of farmers (the per capita net income was 1 926.07 yuan). The survey of aquaculture households in 1997 shows that family members were 2 781 and labourers were 1 515. The per capita net income was 5 325 yuan and average net income of labourers was 10 097 yuan, which showed a sizable increase over 1996. In Tianjin where stress is placed on prawn culture, the per capita net income of 20 households in 1996 stood at 5 645 yuan and the average net income of labourers was 12 145 yuan. In 1997, the per capita net income and the average net income of labourers reached 7 491 yuan and 15 202 yuan respectively, which were 1-2 folds higher than that of aquaculture households in general.
According to a typical survey of agriculture households conducted in 1997 (Table 11b), the per capita net income was 2 090.13 yuan, of which 1 617 yuan was on average spent on living expenses such as food, clothing, housing, transportation, communication, medical care and recreation, making up 64% of the total income. The typical surveys of aquaculture households made in Beijing, Henan, etc. the same year, the per capita net income was 5 325 yuan, 210% higher than that of agriculture households. The average living expenses stood at 2 651.1 yuan, (63.9% higher than that of agriculture households), amounting to 50% of the total. These figures show that the fish farmer's income is much higher than farmer's income. So is the living expense. However, the fish farmers had more money to spend for other uses than farmers.
After liberation, the Chinese women' social position radically changed. The Chinese women not only are equal to men politically but also enjoy the same right of employment as men. Production conditions and environment of capture fisheries are quite special so few women work in the forefront of capture fisheries, but just do rear-service work such as knitting or mending nets, processing, etc. Rural aquaculture is a kind of labour-intensive production, which is suitable for women to participate directly. As for some production operational activities, they do much better than men such as in seed production, seed collection and rearing, seeding, rope culture and so on. In addition, the women do very well in the making of culture facilities such as rack, raft, seedling collector, rope and line, drainage, ditches, etc. Women are also involved in harvesting and transportation, processing. Therefore, the development of rural aquaculture is creating more jobs for women. The present statistical figures are not very accurate, but it is estimated that the proportion of women engaged in aquaculture is not less than one third of the total workforce employed in rural aquaculture. There are 1 167 non-profit seed propagation stations with a staff of 29 310 throughout the country. Of them, 7 878 are female, representing 26.8%. The proportions of females in fisheries technical extension units, scientific research units and educational units are 20.9%, 27.4% and 37.9% respectively. As for rural aquaculture households, the whole family (including children) all throw themselves into production regardless of sex, if needed. Women have made substantial contributions to the development of rural aquaculture, and at the same time have made valuable contribution to the family income and thus helping in raising the quality of family life.