Expat life in China gets tougher

Published:  27 Oct at 6 PM
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Life in China is now getting tougher for expats, with new visa rules, the rising cost of living and creeping prejudice against foreign workers.

For the last decade or so, China has been seen as the perfect location for adventurous expats looking to live and work in an exotic environment. This golden era now looks to be ending, with the country crashing in the HSBC expat survey from third best of 34 countries to a miserable 34th out of 45.

The recently-released InterNations survey noted a similar pattern, with China’s 2014 ranking of 38 out of 61 destinations dropping to 48th out of 57 in 2016. The fall in ratings is linked to two indexes of the surveys, quality of life and family life although, according to the Economist, the soaring cost of living has also played a part in expat disenchantment with China as a whole.

Expats in Shanghai are worst off, with cost of living reports showing the city as the 102nd cheapest on the planet in 2011. This year, the same report placed it at 11th, just below priceir destinations such as Hong Kong. Researchers attribute this huge inflationary spiral to a stable yuan and robust wage and inflation increases.

Of more concern to expats in China are the unhelpful visa changes over the past several years, plus increasingly negative responses from the government on the subject of foreign workers. Earlier this year, a government poster appeared, warning Chinese nationals against falling in love with foreigners. Unsurprisingly, this did not go down well with the country’s large expat community.

Job opportunities for expats are also on the decline, especially at higher managerial levels, mostly due to businesses cutting costs as the economy slows. The most recent work visa change came at the beginning of this month, and affects expat professionals in selected provinces. Foreign employees are to be graded from A to C, dependent on education, proficiency in Mandarin and work experience.
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