'McRefugee' Population Soars 500% in Hong Kong

By Bailey Hu, August 7, 2018

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What is a McRefugee (aka McSleeper), you might ask? They're the men and women who, come nightfall, shelter in air-conditioned, 24-hour McDonald's restaurants, sometimes slumbering there all night. And in Hong Kong, their rapidly growing numbers are yet another indicator of the city's increasingly unaffordable housing.

A local branch of Junior Chamber International conducted a study on Hong Kong's McSleepers in June, South China Morning Post reports. Comparing their figures to a 'similar study' from 2013, they discovered a 550 percent increase in regular sleepers, from 57 to 334.

The 334 McRefugees have slept in a McDonald's every night for the last three months or more, the survey shows. They frequent 84 of the 110 Mickey D's in the city that stay open all night long, with the most popular location  – a Tsuen Wan McDonald's – hosting over 30 McSleepers.

READ MORE: PHOTOS: Hongkongers opt for 'McWeddings' in local McDonald's

Surprisingly, 71 percent of McRefugees interviewed claimed to rent or own apartments, and a majority said they have jobs. However, their housing apparently pales in comparison to McDonald's – most often, interviewees said they came to the fast food chain in order to save money on air conditioning, or for comfort and safety.

Other reasons provided by McSleepers, whose ages ranged from 19 to 79, included high rent, intra-family conflict, saving on transportation and waiting for public housing opportunities.

According to researchers, one McRefugee said that by staying at McDonald's, she avoided her landlord's charge of HKD16 per unit of electricity, as well as the mugginess of her windowless apartment.

READ MORE: PHOTOS: Inside Hong Kong's Coffin-Sized Apartments

Hong Kong is well known for its unaffordable property, which has spawned strange phenomena such as a HKD6 million parking spot. As of this March, 270,000 in the city were still on waiting lists for low-rent public housing, SCMP reports, with families' average wait time lasting over five years.

Those involved with the study have called for both renewed attention and public intervention to aid the city's McSleepers, lest their numbers keep rising.

[Top image via Ronald Woan/Flickr]

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