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The results show more than 55 per cent of the respondents would consider leaving Hong Kong. The respondents were asked to choose up to three countries they would most like to emigrate to. Australia was the most popular destination, with 21 per cent of the votes, followed closely by the United Kingdom at 20 per cent, 13 per cent opted for the United States and 12 per cent for Canada in their top three choices.

Of the students who wanted to emigrate, the deciding factors were the quality and pace of life, the environment and pollution and the cost of property and living expenses in that order. The political environment was the fourth biggest factor. What attracted students most to their preferred countries were the pace and quality of life, the environment and social welfare.

John Hu, the director of John Hu Migration Consulting, says he is not surprised by the survey results as his business is doing well this year. “[There has been] a hundred per cent increase in the number of clients, compared to 2012.”

He thinks Australia is popular among the students because it sets a relatively low threshold for skilled migrants; for example, a job offer in Australia is not a prerequisite for migration.

However, the country has been reducing the number of occupations it will recognise as eligible for emigration under its scheme for skilled migrants. In July, another five occupations, from the pharmacy and aircraft maintenance fields, were removed from the Skilled Occupation List. Other countries, like Canada, have also tightened their immigration policies. According to the Security Bureau, Canada, Australia and the US are the most sought-after countries for Hong Kong people.

Given the higher thresholds for emigration overseas, Hu suggests university students should acquire at least three years of relevant working experience, rather than pursue a postgraduate degree. “For Australia, a master’s and bachelor’s degree will get you the same points [in the Immigration Points Test],” he laughs.

Hu adds those seeking to emigrate may be facing stiffer competition. Government figures show an eight per cent increase in the number of people who emigrated in the first half of this year, compared with the same period last year.

Mary Chan, an immigration consultant at Rothe International Canada, believes the figures are an underestimation. She says they do not take into account the people who already have foreign passports, came back to live in Hong Kong and now want to leave again. More than 416,000 people left Hong Kong between 1990 (the year after the June 4th crackdown in Beijing) and 1997, the year of the handover. Many of them went to Canada and came back to Hong Kong after acquiring citizenship.

Chan says that in recent years, she has received more enquiries from post-handover emigration returnees who plan to go back to Canada. Education, political uncertainties and high property prices are common concerns. “The children’s education is foremost, it is always because of the next generation,” says Chan.