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Back to Hong Kong: Return migration or transnational sojourn? - page 10 / 33

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10

‘reluctant exiles’ whose anguished decision-making concerning departure

was well-captured by Hong Kong social scientists at the time (Skeldon

1994, 1995).

Census data and tax returns reinforce the near unanimous view

we heard from interviews on both sides of the Pacific about the limited

economic success attainable in Canada. Individual incomes for Hong

Kong immigrants in Canada in 1996 were very low, with 45 percent

earning less than Cdn$1000 a month, and mean incomes fell below half

the level of returnees working in Hong Kong (DeVoretz et al. 2003). “So I

like Canada” observed one returnee, “But the problem is I have to work

there”. Another returnee weighed the alternatives: “Everything is good in

Canada except for job opportunities. The living standard is so good but

the job opportunities (are) getting worse and worse”. Not surprisingly

there have been high levels of return migration. Exit data from Australia,

(where unlike Canada such records are kept), suggest that as many as

30 percent of 1990-91 arrivals had returned to Hong Kong in short order

(Kee and Skeldon 1994). Many households fragmented, with mothers and

children left in Australia or Canada, while the father and husband

assumed the role of ‘astronaut’, with his home and primary occupation

in East Asia, undertaking long commutes for short visits on the ‘Pacific

shuttle’ (Ong 1999) to see family members.

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