Friday 24th December 2010

Is Hong Kong Losing its Expat Appeal?

It appears that Hong Kong may not be the ideal expat destination that it once was with a number of recent reports indicating that the city is no longer attractive as an overseas destination.

In a survey released by ECA International last September, Hong Kong rocketed 30 places up the chart to position number 32 as the most expensive place in the world in which to live. Increases in living costs in this Chinese SAR were attributed to the weaker Euro, the home currency for a number of Hong Kong based expatriates and a rising rate of inflation.

It appears, however, that the cost of living may be the least of worries for expatriates living in this Asian city. In a report issued 24/7 Wall St, an online commentary website, Hong Kong was named in the list of the top ten most polluted countries in the world, appearing at number 9 of the list of countries in the world with the worst air quality. These results support earlier findings of a Gallup poll, which revealed that 70% of people living in Hong Kong were unhappy with the pollution levels in the city.

The high cost of living and the poor air quality may explain the results of a recent study by the Civic Exchange. According to the results of their interviews with over 985 Hong Kong residents, a staggering 25% are considering moving abroad because of concerns about the impact poor pollution is having on their health: "The response to this survey paints a bleak picture of Hong Kong, in which more and more people have given up complaining and started packing their bags," says the report, entitled Less Talk, More Action.

Even more interesting was the fact that those planning on leaving constitute the highest earners in Hong Kong, with 49 percent of those earning HK$60,000 or more a month claiming that they would like to leave Hong Kong for better air, compared to 37 percent earning HK$40,000 to HK$59,000 and 30 percent of those earning HK$30,000 to HK$39,000. About 25 percent of those earning HK$29,000 or below are considering moving abroad.

Commenting on the potential effect of such a mass exit Civic Exchange chief executive Christine Loh Kung-wai said: “Hong Kong's better-educated and rich people are most important for the city's knowledge-based economy. It is obvious that air pollution is hurting Hong Kong's competitiveness."

She went on to warn that Hong Kong could lose up to 2 million residents, many of them expatriates.

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