Nation frets as middle class heads overseas

Updated: 2014-06-25 07:02

By Lyu Chang (China Daily)

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Nation frets as middle class heads overseas

A visitor passes by national flags displayed the 9th China International Education Exhibition Tour in Beijing. [File photo/CFP]

Policymakers scramble for solutions to retain talent as more professionals search for greener pastures outside China, reports Lyu Chang

Pointing to the gray skies from her office in Shanghai, Yi Wan, who works for a leading multinational company, said she cannot wait for the day when she and her family can begin a new life under the blue skies in Canada.

The 31-year-old Yi and her husband, who works in the sales department of a Chinese IT company, recently sold one of their two flats in downtown Shanghai to put about the equivalent of $700,000 in a Canadian investment fund.

Although not so well-off compared with the "Chinese elite", Yi and her family are hinging most of their savings for a "green card" that will give them foreign passports and a new life in their dream country.

"It was the smartest move we have ever made," Yi said. "It is getting much harder now."

Yi's concerns mirror the experiences of several other Chinese families who are finding that the search for greener pastures abroad is getting increasingly difficult in the wake of new rules. Canada, one of the most popular emigration destinations for Chinese people, recently said it was stopping the popular Immigrant Investor Program that gave green cards to investors who have a minimum net worth of C$1.6 million ($1.5 million) and were ready to invest C$800,000 in the form of a multi-year, interest-free loan to the Canadian government.

Though migrating overseas is not a new phenomenon in China, it is the growing number of middle-class citizens who are contemplating such a move that is vexing policymakers as they fear it would have serious economic repercussions.

The number of Chinese emigrants had risen to 9.34 million by the end of 2013, with the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand being the top four destinations, said a report on Chinese international migration in 2014 published by the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based think tank.

The migrant numbers do not include the people who are planning such moves, the report said, adding that the numbers already make China, the fourth-largest country with international emigrants after India, Mexico and Russia.

The report also said that the huge numbers are a cause for concern due to the huge brain and capital drain it involves.

"Most of the prospective migrants from China are middle-class people aged between 35 and 55," it said. "Their departure from China would weaken the middle-class support needed for China's social transformation and also hinder the further progress of reforms and transformation."

But for the middle class, the reasons for a shift are manifold, considering that they have benefited largely from the sweeping social changes, transformation and the economic miracle of China.

Nation frets as middle class heads overseas

Nation frets as middle class heads overseas

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