Expat retiree exodus now heads for Asian countries

Expat retiree exodus now heads for Asian countries

Expat retiree exodus now heads for Asian countries

Foreign retirees are flocking to Asian destinations to avoid freezing winters, political chaos and cost of living hikes.

Over the last few years, the numbers of retirees heading for Asia has soared, with the majority arriving from the USA, Australia, Europe and the UK. They’re from a wide mix of socioeconomic backgrounds and are scattered across the majority of Asian countries. The exodus is a thoroughly modern phenomenon, spurred by freezing winters, the thought of ending life in a nursing home and, for many, an escape from first-world politics and soaring costs of living.

All told, they’re a growing minority in the region and, for many countries, meeting their needs is becoming big business. The new wave of expats is found in the Philippines, Indonesia’s Bali island, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and even China. Together with Asia’s indigenous elderly population, the expat arrivals are contributing to calculations by the Asian Development Bank showing the continent will be the oldest world region in just a few decades from now. The bank is concerned Asian governments in general don’t have plans in place to deal with the massive demographic shift.

Even so, countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are cashing in on the so-called ‘silver economy’ at high speed, with the sector including dedicated retirement villages, specialised medical care at inflated prices and even holidays for seniors during which they’re shown the advantages of emigrating. For the overall majority of elderly expats, Asia’s mostly warm climate is the main attraction, and less expensive countries such as the Philippines and Cambodia draw those without over-stuffed pension pots or private means.

Exact numbers of retirees across the favoured countries aren’t officially known as yet, although the Philippines has around 160,000 expats on pensioner visas, with many more married to Filipinos or on investor visas. Chiang Mai in northern Thailand has around 30,000, with more in Phuket and other coastal locations. Cambodia is becoming increasingly popular, both with Westerners and Chinese retirees, with Sihanoukville and Siem Reap two of the favourite locations.

Overall, the only problem in future may be the provision of affordable healthcare for expat retirees. Whilst standards in general have improved significantly, the prices charged by hospitals in Asia’s destination countries have soared to a level which may prevent the average retiree from getting treatment when needed. The same is true for private health insurance, now a cash cow for many Asian providers. Rates for both may well be less than in private facilities in Europe, the UK and the USA, but that’s no comfort for expat retirees who’ve chosen countries with a cheaper cost of living rather than being forced into poverty in their home countries.

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