Asia still gaining in popularity with expat retirees

Published:  11 Mar at 6 PM
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Once the choice of only the bravest would-be expats, the past three years have seen Asia head up the list for its retirement options as well as its job opportunities.

Found in countries as diverse as China, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines and Indonesia, the Asian expat community covers all socioeconomic backgrounds. The vast majority of retirees arrive from colder climes, with the British and Americans heading the list. Reasons for choosing to travel across half the world to a new home vary from the prospect of ending one’s life in a care home through a search for new experiences to a need for a lower cost of living. The ‘Silver Economy’, as it’s now called, is now big business in many Asian countries.

Singapore Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand are cashing in on the influx of retirees from Western and westernised countries of origin, offering long-stay deals in exchange for hefty investments as well as ramping up health and other services to cope with demand. Unfortunately, it’s rare to find a country in which it’s possible to be granted permanent residence, leaving many expat retirees with a faint sense of unease.

Other negatives about Asia as a retirement hub include language problems, especially when ill health strikes. Although the big cities in Westernised countries such as Singapore and Malaysia have excellent healthcare, it comes at a high price, whilst less medically sophisticated locations such as Thailand are now charging expats almost as much as some would pay in their home countries. Even so, it seems the advantages of warm weather, a cheaper cost of living and the chance to enjoy new friends and new experiences far outweigh the downsides for the majority of expat arrivals.

Even China, once closed and mysterious to Westerners, is moving up the retirement destination popularity chart. Hangzhou, Suzhou and Zhuhai, all steeped in history and surrounded by spectacular natural beauty, are now considered retirement havens. Indonesia’s Bali, once an non-exclusive hangout for the world’s backpackers, now offers a rarity amongst Asian countries – a chance to apply for permanent residency after 5 successive one-year visas have been granted.
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