Thursday, August 11

China’s Once Booming Expatriate Population Continues to Fall, Moving Company Says

Long regarded as a promised land of sorts for international business and manufacturers, China has always attracted hordes of eager expatriates ready to work alongside the country’s billion-plus consumers. According to an international moving company, however, those days could soon be over.

A recent study by UniGroup Relocation — which moves more than 260,000 families worldwide each year for work — indicates that expatriates to China are undergoing a bit of an exodus.

In 2014, twice as people moved out of China than into the country, according to UniGroup’s customer data.

The increased outflow could be the result of a combination of factors, such as expiring work contracts which can keep expats in China for two to three years, according to UniGroup. Other reasons include the rising cost of living, the desire to move back home, as well as China’s infamous pollution, which even Beijing’s mayor has said makes the city “unlivable.”

The trend has also been fueled by a global economic shift, the company says. The ripple effects of China’s slowest growth period since 2009 — which leaders are now referring to as the “new normal” — has decreased multinational business sales, leaving some companies to reconsider their operating strategies in China.

In addition, steadily rising manufacturing and labor costs in China has caused some corporations to overlook the Middle Kingdom altogether, instead choosing the greener and cheaper pastures of Malaysia and Vietnam, according to Steve Lewis, Managing Director of UniGroup Relocation Asia Pacific.

“We have done some mass moves into Malaysia from China as certain people choose to do research and development and manufacturing there,” he said.

The recovering economy in the U.S. and parts of Europe is yet another factor that is luring expats out of China.

While UniGroup’s report did not mention China’s ever-tightening political climate or the uncertainty and business disruption linked to President Xi Jinping’s aggressive anti-corruption campaign, a few recently departed and soon-to-depart expats told China Real Time those were contributing factors in their decision to leave.

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