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China Lockdowns Contribute to New Exodus of Ex-Pats

Quoted recently in the Wall Street Journal, The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China has estimated the number of ex-pat Europeans has halved since the beginning of the pandemic.  China has revealed a double-digit decline in foreign workers from countries such as Korea, the US and Japan.  In Beijing alone, the number of foreign workers declined by 40% in the past decade. With China’s borders ostensibly closed to foreigners since March 2020, the ability for companies to send new professional workers has diminished.

In recent weeks, the ongoing lockdowns in major cities such as Shanghai, have contributed to a new wave of departures – amongst them are foreigners with deeply rooted family, social and economic ties in the country.   The inability to readily obtain food and water during lockdowns has caused long term residents to reconsider their tenure in China. Prolonged school closures and departures of teaching staff at international schools have added to the challenges for families with children.  

Outlook for employers:   Companies such as Volkswagen are reporting plans to shed hundreds more expatriate roles in the coming years, while other companies such as Apple are localising more positions amid a dearth of foreign talent.  As millions of Chinese residents have gone back into lockdown this week, there is no evidence of any relaxation of the Covid Zero policy in the months ahead.

Published on: November 9, 2022

Authors: Michelle Swinden

Topics: China, Japan & Asia-Pacific, Immigration

Michelle Swinden

Executive Director, Asia-Pacific, HR Policy Global

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Contact Michelle Swinden LinkedIn

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