Did people return to Shanghai and Shenzhen post-COVID? - Charts of the week
Latest population migration trends in Chinese cities in 6 charts
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In 2022, COVID lockdowns and the increasingly competitive job market dealt a dual blow to China. As a result, many people found it difficult to maintain their living standards in the first-tier cities, namely Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangdong — the mega metropolitans in China that offer attractive career opportunities, due to high living expenses. Many chose to return to their hometowns.
Many are wondering if those who left the first-tier cities have returned. In this post, we will provide 6 key charts to help you understand the latest population migration trends in China, as well as the longer-term implications reflected in the job and real estate market.
The short conclusion: Shanghai and Shenzhen did not see a net population return
A study published on 虎嗅 Huxiu.com, a leading Chinese digital media platform known for its insightful analysis of technology, finance, and business trends, found that the net population inflow in first-tier cities did not see a significant comeback in 2023.
In particular, the cumulative population inflow in Shanghai and Shenzhen did not recover to the pre-2023 level and continued to decline.
Note: The analysis uses data from various sources, including cross-city population migration, consumer spending, app usage, and other high-frequency data.
Based on usage data of various popular mobile apps, we can observe similar trends. Both Shenzhen and Shanghai have seen a decline in population inflow, which is reflected in the overall decrease in app usage activities in these cities. In 2023, the level of app usage activity in Shenzhen was even surpassed by cities like Chengdu and Hangzhou.
The study shows that people are returning to their hometowns or nearby provincial capitals. In 2023, the gap in app usage activities between Shenzhen and Guangzhou widened as people migrated to smaller cities near Guangzhou, such as Dongguan and Huizhou. Similarly, individuals from Shanghai relocated to nearby cities in Jiangsu and Zhejiang Province, such as Suzhou and Hangzhou.
Real estate market: Are people still buying homes in metropolitans?
Housing and career opportunities are two major factors that impact longer-term population migration, especially for young people.
In the paid section below, we will provide updates on the latest real estate market in China. This includes information on the latest listing prices and transaction values of existing homes in major Chinese cities.
Additionally, we will share job postings for young people in various city tiers in China, helping you understand which cities are attracting young talents.