China: Powerful Economy, Awful Environment
- Pollution leads to concerns for children’s health
- 90% satisfied with personal safety
- Most expats learn basic Chinese
- Economy and job prospects judged favorably
- Expats work 45 hours per week vs. average 41.4
Family Life Could Be Easier in the Middle Kingdom
Moving to China with your family can be difficult and expensive, according to the Expat Insider 2016 respondents. To quote just one example, only 9% of expat parents think their children’s education is affordable. Is this price justified by the good quality of teaching? — 74% of expats rate it favorably.
In China, only 9% of expats think that their children’s health is very good, compared to 30% worldwide. Pollution may be the culprit: in fact, some studies have proven that coal-burning plants (which produce 70% of the country’s electricity) can hinder a child’s development.
Still, these negative ratings are balanced by the availability of childcare options, which more than half of expat parents (53%) judge favorably. But this comes at a price: half of expat parents (47%) think childcare is not easy to afford.
Furthermore, leisure activities for kids are not widely available, and only 9% of expat parents think there are plenty of leisure options for children. These factors lead to only 15% of expats having a very good opinion of general family life in China, compared to 27% worldwide.
Decent Infrastructure, Low Crime, High Health Risks
The transport infrastructure in China is appreciated by 81% of expats, which might be explained by the significant investments the country has made recently, especially in the big cities. Additionally, personal safety is considered a huge plus for expats, and 90% are satisfied with this factor.
However, as mentioned above, China is infamous for its pollution, and the respondents of the Expat Insider 2016 survey definitely agree. An impressive 84% of expats rate the quality of environment as bad or very bad, compared to 20% globally. And not a single respondent gave this factor a very good rating.
Finally, the quality of medical care in China is not enough to counterbalance those negative impact factors. In fact, only 9% of expats describe healthcare as very good, compared to 23% worldwide. Furthermore, healthcare is not considered affordable by more than one-third of the expats living in China. Globally, only 24% of expats give the availability of local healthcare a similarly negative rating.
“Nihao” Is Not Enough to Get By
China’s official language is Mandarin Chinese, and it is apparently one of the most difficult languages to learn. In fact, 44% of the Expat Insider 2016 respondents think it is a very difficult language, while only 16% of expats worldwide say the same about the local language in their destination. This can be a barrier in day-to-day life, but most expats obviously manage to learn the basics: 55% describe themselves as speaking the local language “a little”.
“The language barrier! I don’t like being dependent on others to arrange everything for me.”
While Chinese culture is among the oldest civilizations in the world, it might not always be that easy to get used to for expatriates. According to 43% of expats, adapting to the culture is difficult, and coupled with the language barrier, it can be a bit frustrating to socialize with local people.
All of these factors explain why China is ranked 60th out of 67 in the Ease of Settling In Index.
A Worker’s Paradise?
China’s impressive economic growth in recent decades has created a high demand for skilled workers and managers. A lot of expats have seized those opportunities, and the good salaries that came with them.
“There are many opportunities to find work as a foreigner and live well within your means.”
More than two-thirds of expats (68%) view their career prospects positively, and the labor market is a major benefit which 55% of expats considered before moving to China. Another plus is the state of the economy, which is judged favorably by 72% of expats, compared to 57% worldwide.
China is ranked 7th out of 67 in the Personal Finance Index, and the fact that one-third of the survey respondents in China who decided to share income-related information have an annual household income of more than 100,000 USD illustrates why the country is performing well in this area. Also, 66% of expats describe their disposable income as “more than enough”, compared to 48% worldwide.
The only downside is the cost of living that has been climbing faster than the salaries. In fact, China is ranked 34th out of 67 when it comes to the Cost of Living Index. Finally, working hours are also a growing problem for expats, with 45 hours per week on average, compared to the global average of 41.4 hours.
- Columbia University: Mailman School of Public Health: Air Pollution in China and Children’s Health
- McKinsey&Company. Chinese Infrastructure: The Big Picture.
- CNN. Cities That Meet Air Standards in China
- Shanghai List. Shanghai Jumps to 11th Place in New Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, Still Trails Hong Kong
- Expat Insider 2015 - Of Job Satisfaction and Language Barriers
- Expats in China
- Moving to China
- Expat Experiences: Guangzhou 303