UK and US expats lead exodus from Hong Kong

The number of expatriates in Hong Kong from Britain, the US and Australia has dropped significantly over the past year, according to official Immigration Department figures.

Hong Kong
According to a report in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), far from all leaving expats have been returning home but, rather, relocating to the likes of Singapore, Africa and North America.For the year to June, the number of Britons in Hong Kong declined by 10.64 per cent, while the number of Americans fell by eight per cent and five per cent of Australians left. There were also smaller declines in expat populations from Malaysia, Portugal, Japan, Canada, Indonesia and Singapore. Overall, however, the number of foreign residents living in the city fell by only about one per cent, mainly because of a significant rise in the number of arrivals from the Philippines – traditionally the source of domestic staff in Hong Kong.The SCMP pointed out that Hong Kong now ranked only 28th in a survey of the 'most liveable' places in Asia, with air quality problems one of the main reasons for its low rating. "Increasing numbers of workers are returning to their home countries after completing temporary contracts in the city or relocating to the likes of Singapore for new career opportunities," said the report.Jon Boag, director of relocation company Swift Relo, told the newspaper that it had been a “very busy summer” with many of those choosing to depart citing pollution and new employment opportunities as reasons for leaving. “Those who leave the city generally repatriate to Europe, Australia, the US, while some relocate to Singapore for a new job,” he said. “The cost of moving has decreased as freight rates were lower this year. Swift Relo, which we established six years ago, helps more than 1,000 families move every year.”

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A spokeswoman for professional movers Asian Tigers Mobility added that the US was increasingly the favoured destination for those leaving Hong Kong, followed by Singapore, Britain, mainland China, Germany and Japan. The company, along with competitors Crown Relocations, reported a drop of between five and 10 per cent in the number of people moving to Hong Kong this year compared to 2015.Michael Wan, general manager for Hong Kong and Macau at Crown Relocations, said there had been an increase in people leaving Hong Kong for Canada, which he attributed to people “seeking more educational opportunities for children or reunion with families that have been living in Canada since a great pre-handover migration period”. He added that Africa had become an important destination for clients working for large corporations. “Africa has huge growth potential, motivating us to dig deeper into this complex region,” he said.Marcy LaRont, president of the American Women’s Association in Hong Kong, attributed the exodus among certain nationalities to the knock-on effects of the 2008 economic depression and Hong Kong's high cost of living, particularly housing.“Expats here have increasingly been asked to ‘go local’,” she said. “And though many families will ‘go local’, for at least as many others this simply isn’t feasible. Thus, you leave Hong Kong. And if companies can fill the remaining expat spots with younger and/or non-married employees without families, that is a smart economic move for them.”