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Half Of Chinas Wealthiest Citizens Are Planning To Emigrate Within Five Years

News Posted On: 07 October 2014

Just under 50% of China’s wealthiest are planning a move abroad within the next five years, according to figures released by Barclays bank. Barclays surveyed more than 2,000 high net worth individuals – people who each had over $1.5m in net worth – from around the world. The global average of those who planned to move to a new country was 29% - well above the level of the general population. But for Chinese respondents, it was 47%. Compare that with 23% in Singapore, or 16% in Hong Kong – or with the relatively much lower figures of 20% for Britain, 6% in the USA and 5% in India.

However, the reasons wealthy Chinese want to move may surprise Western readers. After all, China’s government is politically repressive and the economy has begun to stall, with real estate looking to many like it has peaked and is due for a long corrective fall. Are those the reasons Chinese seek a new life abroad?

In a word, no. Wealthy Chinese are looking to move abroad so that they can improve their children’s education and job prospects. That’s the overwhelming majority – 78% - of respondents’ top reason for considering emigration. The economy came in second place, at 73%, while health care and social services trailed a distant third at 18%.

Wealthy Chinese do face a stumbling block, though: while figures show clearly that China’s economy has slowed, and most analysts see a correction in the near future, that’s not most people’s experience yet. ‘The reality,’ as Knight Frank’s head of residential research, Liam Bailey, notes, ‘is that most ultra-high net worth individuals in China are making money in China right now. So, for business reasons, they need to be relatively close. That might prevent some of them going further afield.’

For those who do choose to leave, there’s fierce competition amongst target nations. Many nations in the West Indies and in Europe have begun variations on ‘golden passport’ schemes, and one reliable way to get into otherwise difficult destinations like Canada and America is by investor’s visas. The rich are in any case far more mobile than the general population, with nearly half of the world’s millionaires having lived in more than one country, and ‘an explosion in second passports as a way for these high net worth individuals to achieve global mobility,’ observes Nicholas Rollason, head of business immigration at London law firm Kingsley Napley.

If and when they leave, Chinese millionaires are looking at Hong Kong, the USA and Europe. That has knock-on effects for the property markets in those places – it’s likely to exacerbate the two-tiered property markets already observable in major Canadian cities, in the USA as a whole and in many European capitals, with premium property markets booming while the remainder stagnates. However, in many cases premium market expansion has gone some way to reinvigorating markets as a whole, especially in countries like Australia and the USA where construction is a major economic driver.

Written by Les Calvert of - overseas property reporter

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