Some finance professionals in Hong Kong are talking about summer 2022 as a potential deadline to return to their home countries as they grow tired of Draconian Covid restrictions.
Bankers with young families are seriously considering relocating because they still have to quarantine for three weeks upon their return to Hong Kong.
“We’re seeing it. Bankers are sending their spouses and children back home and are looking to the summer holidays as the right time to follow them,” said one expat professional in Hong Kong. “This is real.”
Hong Kong’s population has shrunk by 89,000 residents in the year ending June, according to government data. Singapore, meanwhile, reported a 10.7% per cent dip in its non-resident population over the same period.
Covid restrictions have played havoc with what has become the standard expat timeline, where they spend three to five years overseas while their children are young. “In Hong Kong the lifestyle’s fantastic for that with housekeepers and great childcare. Then they have a decision to make when their kids get to school-age,” said one Hong Kong-based headhunter.
Western bankers often prefer to send their children to private school in the UK. Covid has meant that some have not seen their children for long periods. “Now they can fly home, but quarantine on the way back is so restrictive. The big deadline will be school holidays next year, when some professionals may decide to bring forward plans and relocate home to the UK. Many companies are talking about what to do if expats wish to locate. Most will be begrudgingly OK by then,” said the expat professional.
All of this is having an impact on recruitment, with headhunters saying they are struggling to persuade expats to relocate. “When you look at the cost of living in Hong Kong, it makes more sense just to stay in Surrey and put the kids in a top-rated state school,” the headhunter said.
But it won’t result in an exodus of talent across the board. Experienced bankers with families are more likely to return home than young professionals who are still enjoying the lifestyle pay and career opportunities. “If you’re a young professional with no family then the worst thing about the restrictions is you can’t go to Bali for the weekend. That’s survivable,” the headhunter added.
David Rothnie – Read more on efinancialcareers.com