The Nanfang Insider recently did a post entitled, Is There an Expat Exodus in China? Not Quite [link no longer exists]. The post used mostly irrelevant statistics to argue there is no such exodus. I would contend there has been and is continuing to be an exodus of expats from China.
All I can talk about is what I keep hearing and seeing and that is the following:
1. Just about every week, one of my law firm’s China lawyers gets an email from an American lawyer who has been in China for five to ten years and is wanting to “go home”.
2. Just about every week one of our China employment lawyers will get an email from an expat in China wanting us to review their China employment agreement to determine what they need to clear up to leave China on good terms. Five years ago, we probably got one of these emails per month.
3. It’s not just well known expats like Mark Kitto, Charlie Custer, and Marc van der Chijs (all mentioned in the Nanfang Insider post) who are leaving China or talking about leaving. I know of a slew of well-known expats who have for all intents and purposes already left (they are living in their home countries but spending maybe 10-25% of their time in China) but have never announced it. I also know of another slew of such expats who are looking to do the same. I do not feel free to name names yet, but I am sure some of these names will be hitting the news soon.
4. It is the rare parent with young kids in China who does not at least talk about leaving due to the pollution.
5. The crazy-good opportunities for freshly minted American college graduates are much fewer than they were five years ago and college students are catching on to this and just not going or leaving. Five years ago, graduates would go to China to get a job. Now they are working for a year or two in their home countries to earn money to travel around the world for a year or so to gain international experience, with plans to return to their home country for grad school or a job. I know I am generalizing here, but this is what I am seeing and hearing.
What do you-all think? Is there an exodus of expats leaving China? Is China still the hot place for expats?