What is a McRefugee
With rents for the smallest quarters exceeding the equivalent of $ 1,000 a month, a relatively large number of workers in Asia's largest cities have become essentially homeless. Instead of not being completely destitute, like many homeless people, a not inconsiderable number of these people earn enough to otherwise finance themselves outside of their maintenance needs in order to be able to afford housing. To solve the problem of lack of funding for more traditional accommodations, many have turned to 24-hour establishments where they can spend the night and catch a few Zs, including McDonald’s and Manga in particular.
McDonalds audiences are particularly widespread in China and Hong Kong, where they are sometimes referred to as McRefugees or McSleepers. There are countless photos of people slumped in stalls or on table tops, surrounded by the remains of their purchases.
Some overnight accommodations seem to encourage the practice - especially since McSleepers regularly counts among customers who otherwise cause no problems. As a McDonald’s representative in Hong Kong officially stated, "We welcome all walks of life to visit our restaurants at any time."
Hong Kong is a particularly difficult place to find affordable housing as prices rose 130% between 2008 and 2015. According to Expatistan, renting a 480-square-foot studio costs between HKD 22,867 and HKD 15,150 (about $ 1,900 and $ 3,000) per month.
It is estimated that Hong Kong had around 1,000 McRefugees in 2015, although the official government figures here are likely to massively underestimate the extent of the problem. In this context, the situation of the unemployed homeless came to the fore that year with reports of a middle-aged woman lying dead at a McDonalds for seven hours before anyone bothered to check on her; Staff thought she was going to sleep.
There is a similar problem in Tokyo with the monthly rent for a similarly small studio, which ranges from JPY 96,000 to JPY 185,000 (about $ 850 to $ 1,640). The reports from Japan are a little less daunting, however, as it appears that their unemployed homeless people have linked a slightly more convenient combination of all of the nighttime operations they can sleep in. As early as 2007, it was reported that around 5,400 Tokyo residents spent at least half of their weeks in internet cafes; Recently, manga cafes (so named because of the addition of extensive manga libraries on the premises) have become very popular.
Customers in the Manga cafés are at least more comfortable with a private booth with a computer, unlimited Internet access, access to a DVD and Manga library and a reclining office chair. Soft drinks are usually provided free of charge, while food (usually greasy) is available at modest prices. For reference, the charge for a booth at one of these establishments generally ranges from about ¥ 1,400 to ¥ 2,400 ($ 12 to $ 21) for up to 12 hours.
However, as you can imagine, sleeping in these accommodations isn't exactly the most comfortable in the world, and chronic back pain is the name of the game for many of these people. For those who can occasionally get some food to round off their weeks, some of these cyber homeless people rely on other inexpensive all-night services for a slightly more restful night's sleep, such as capsule hotels. Not for the claustrophobic, for around ¥ 3,000 to ¥ 6,000 per night. In a capsule hotel, the subtenant receives an encapsulated bunk bed with access to shared changing rooms and bathing facilities.
Another option that Tokyo's homeless people sometimes turn to is public baths, which can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand yen a night (roughly a few dollars to $ 40).
- Of course, labor homelessness is not unique to major cities in Asia. While solid statistics are hard to come by, it is estimated that of the 3.5 million people who become homeless each year, around 25% of them are employed at the time. In New York City alone, an estimated 60,000 residents are homeless. Many attribute this to a housing crisis triggered by gentrification and the loss of 150,000 rent-stabilized apartments. And of those who have a home, more than 50% of NYC residents today spend more than a third of their income on rentals, which averages over $ 3,000 per month.
- Europe is also facing a growing problem of homelessness. It is estimated that 1.5% of the population in Greece was homeless in 2017 (only 0.18% of Greeks were homeless in 2013 - just like in the US).
- Similarly, other European countries are seeing rapid increases in their homelessness. The number of families looking for temporary housing in London has increased by 50% since 2010 and youth homelessness in Copenhagen by 75% since 2009 Most blame the cost overload caused by a broken housing market (in Germany 16% give more than 40% their income for housing).
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