Asia's eastern promise draws record number of French expats
French people are escaping debt-ridden Europe and flocking to Asia in unprecedented numbers drawn by economic opportunities and a lower standard of living.
According to government figures, the number of French expatriates in Asia grew 11 per cent last year including 22 per cent in Indonesia and 11.4 per cent in China.
There are now officially 110,000 million French people living in the Asia-Pacific region out of 1.6 million worldwide.
Analysts attribute the shift to the debt-crisis in Europe, the average growth rate of 6 per cent of emerging Asian economies and an increased interest in Asian affairs by students who have a greater command of the English language.
The French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China has offices in Beijing and Shanghai, and recently opened a branch in the southwestern city of Chengdu where foreign companies benefit from tax breaks and lower labour costs.
In Hong Kong, for example, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, there is no capital gains tax, no death duties, no sales tax, salaries are taxed at no more than 15 per cent and profits tax is capped at 16.5 per cent.
The former British colony also recently signed an agreement with France to prevent double taxation.
After Britain, France’s biggest trade surplus is with Hong Kong totalling 3.8 billion euros last year.
Some 700 French-owned companies operate in Hong Kong employing more than 30,000 people and generating an annual revenue of more than seven billion euros.
In Thailand, the French population last year reached 28,550 – an increase of 15 per cent since 2007.