The Ultimate Status Symbol For China’s Millionaires: Leaving The Country

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Almost half of China’s millionaires want to move abroad, according to Barclays. (Shutterstock)

China may be getting more new wealthy individuals every year, but it isn’t necessarily keeping them.

That was the finding of a new survey by Barclays Wealth Insights, which reports that 47 percent of Chinese respondents with a net worth of $1.5 million or more want to move abroad within the next five years in search of better educational opportunities, financial security, and health care.

According to the report, the percentage of Chinese ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) with hopes of emigrating is the highest in the world, topping the global average of 29 percent. The United States and Europe respectively earned first and second place as their top two preferred destinations.

The biggest factor driving their desire to move is an interest in finding better educational and employment opportunities for their children, which was listed as a reason by 78 percent of respondents. Also important is a better economic situation with improved security, which was cited by 73 percent of respondents, while health care and social services were named by 18 percent.

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Although they may want to move, the financial benefits they’re seeing from China’s rapid economic growth might be holding them back. “The reality is that most ultra-high-net-worth individuals in China are probably making money in China right now,” said Knight Frank LLP’s head of residential research Liam Bailey in the report. “So, for business reasons, they need to be relatively close. That might prevent some of them going further afield.”

The high demand to emigrate among China’s wealthy has been documented by the Hurun Report as well, which published a study in June this year found that 64 percent of Chinese HNWIs had either already moved abroad or wanted to in 2013, marking a 4 percent increase from the previous year.

One of the main emigration avenues for wealthy Chinese individuals has been the opportunity to take part in “millionaire visa” programs in countries such as the United States and Canada, which offered green cards to foreign citizens who invest a massive amount of money into the country’s economy. Rapidly growing Chinese demand has inundated these programs in North America, however. After Canada scratched its investment visa program in February as a result of backlogged Chinese applications, the U.S. State Department announced in August that the United States has hit its quota for its similar EB-5 program for the first time ever. As a result, it’s likely will see several other emerging destinations such as Australia, several European countries, and the Caribbean become more popular locations for China’s rich in the years to come.

[Correction: The Barclays report surveyed those with a net worth of at least $1.5 million. A previous version of this post said that it surveyed those with more than $1.5 billion in total net worth.]

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