What’s happening to China’s “ant tribe”?

I recently retired as UK senior partner of BDO after 23 years as a partner with the firm. Last year, I took up a position as visiting professor at Xiamen University, China. My wife is Chinese and I decided to spend three months exploring business opportunities in the region and trying to learn some Mandarin.

I’m blogging about my experiences in China for Real Business – catch up on my journey so far.  

China’s “ant tribe” is estimated at one million. These are low-income graduates who move to big cities for work and live together in cramped apartments. 

Ying is a 24-year-old receptionist in an architect’s practice in Shanghai; she has 14 flatmates and lives in an eight metre square cubicle in a four-bed apartment in the business district. She earns £250 per month. 

Many 20-something graduates share Ying’s plight – and without local “hukou” they cannot apply for government-subsidised affordable housing (in Beijing, for example, five years of local tax returns are required to establish potential residence rights. Some employers offer students at universities there unpaid internships and pay their tax so that they can build a three-year track record before graduation).

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