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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7768
JPY
USD
108.84
GBP
USD
0.6124
CAD
USD
1.0999
INR
USD
61.042

Rates may not be current.