News / Economy

US Business Survey: China's Smog Driving Top Foreign Talent Away

Heavy haze on a severely polluted day obscures a man and a car traveling on a road in Pingshan county of Shijiazhuang in northern China's Hebei province, Feb. 26, 2014.
Heavy haze on a severely polluted day obscures a man and a car traveling on a road in Pingshan county of Shijiazhuang in northern China's Hebei province, Feb. 26, 2014.
Reuters
China's smog is making it harder for foreign firms to convince top executives to work in the country, the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing said on
Wednesday, offering some of the strongest evidence yet on how pollution is hurting recruitment.
 
Some 48 percent of the 365 foreign companies that replied to the chamber's annual survey, which covers businesses in China's northern cities, said concerns over air quality were turning senior executives away.
 
Pollution is "a difficulty in recruiting and retaining senior executive talent," said the report. The 2014 figure is a jump from the 19 percent of foreign firms that said smog was a problem for recruitment in 2010.
 
China's slowing economy, however, remained the top risk for companies, the report added.
 
Foreign executives increasingly complain about pollution in China and the perceived impact it is having on the health of themselves and their families. Several high-profile executives have left China in recent years, citing pollution as the main reason for their decision to go.
 
Almost all Chinese cities monitored for pollution last year failed to meet state standards, but northern China suffers the most. It is home to much of China's coal, steel and cement production. It is also much colder, relying on industrial coal boilers to provide heating during the long winter.
 
The capital Beijing, for example, is surrounded by the big and heavily polluted industrial province of Hebei. It is also choked by traffic.
 
By contrast, China's commercial capital Shanghai, in the south, suffers less air pollution. Indeed, a similar survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce's Shanghai branch did not ask if pollution was affecting recruitment.
 
Premier Li Keqiang "declared war" on pollution at the opening of the annual session of parliament this month, part of a push to wean the world's second biggest economy from credit-fuelled growth to more sustainable development.
 
China also pledged on Sunday to make 60 percent of its cities meet national pollution standards by 2020.
 
Lulu Zhou, associate director of the Beijing Office of international recruitment agency Robert Walters China, said some foreign executives were using pollution to negotiate higher salary packages.
 
"We have seen some senior level professionals ... who are concerned about relocating to Beijing because of the pollution," she said.
 
In a sign of the growing corporate concern over pollution, Japanese electronics firm Panasonic Corp. has told its unions it will review the hardship allowance paid to expatriates in China because of the air quality, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
 
And a state-owned Chinese insurer said this week it would offer Beijing residents insurance cover against health risks caused by air pollution, promising to pay out 1,500 yuan ($240) to policy holders hospitalised by smog.
 
The policy, available for people aged 10 to 50, will also pay out 300 yuan when the city's official smog index exceeds 300 for five consecutive days, a level considered "hazardous", according to a notice posted on the People's Insurance Company of China (PICC) website (www.epicc.com.cn.)
 
Beijing's official air quality index (AQI), which measures airborne pollutants including particulate matter and sulphur dioxide, routinely exceeds 300, and sometimes hits levels higher than 500.
 
Slowing economy the big concern
 
Despite the concerns over pollution, China's cooling economy, which government leaders project to grow this year at about 7.5 percent, posed the greatest risk to companies, according to those polled in the Beijing survey.
 
Firms increasingly reported a stagnation or contraction in operating margins compared with previous years, it said. As a result, more foreign firms saw China "as just one of many investment possibilities", the report said.
 
Nevertheless, a majority of companies surveyed remained optimistic about the business outlook for the next two years.

"This optimism is driven by our membership's confidence in their own ability to adjust and deal with the challenges," said Mark Duval, China president of the American Chamber of Commerce.

Many members had high expectations that recently announced economic reforms might deliver, Duval added.
 
But two in five respondents to the Beijing survey said the business climate had become less welcoming for multinationals, with a similar number saying foreign firms were being singled out in a series of pricing and corruption investigations.
 
Those investigations have targeted various sectors, including pharmaceutical and milk powder multinationals, as well as American technology companies.
 
Most recently, China's anti-monopoly regulator said Qualcomm Inc. was suspected of overcharging and abusing its market position. The U.S. chip giant has said it was cooperating with the investigation by the National Development and Reform Commission.
 
Respondents also chafed at perceived state enterprise favoritism, with 77 percent believing policies benefiting state-owned firms had negatively impacted their business.

"My judgement is that the biggest area that drives [this response] would be market access," said Duval.
 
Protection of trade secrets and company name theft were among other issues worrying businesses. Half of all respondents said that protecting confidential company data was a concern. Other difficulties were a lack of clarity and inconsistency in the application of laws and regulations, the survey said.

You May Like

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8770
JPY
USD
119.68
GBP
USD
0.6414
CAD
USD
1.3265
INR
USD
66.194

Rates may not be current.