China’s smog causes some expat families to live apart

As China battles against increasing air pollution across the country expatriates based there are starting to ask their employers to revert to 1980s and 1990s based hardship packages for pollution. With more than 500,000 expatriates based in China multinationals are having to work hard to retain them with some expats leaving their families at home and starting often strenuous monthly or bi-weekly commutes depending to see them.

In March the World Health Organisation said that air pollution contributed to 7 million people deaths worldwide with 40% of those coming from a region that’s defined as being ‘dominated by China’. Smog was Beijing is worse than government standards most days last year and 71 out of 74 Chinese cities failed to meet government set air quality standards.

Recently Panasonic announced it was considering increasing living allowances for expatriates based in China due to environmental factors including air pollution. Employers seem to be reluctant to increase base salaries any further than they are, even with the premium already added for working in China, and are preferring to offer perks including more time off, improved health care coverage, covering costs of installing filters in homes and allowances to cover trips to get home.

Surveys show that employers are struggling to attract and retain expatriates in China due to air pollution worries, they also face additional costs of installing often expensive air filtration and purification systems in offices and offering face masks to their employees. Some have also noted increased amounts of medical leave being taken by staff.

In recent weeks though it’s not just China that’s been seeing the affects of increased air pollution though with several European cities suffering for several days with people asked not to use their cars and public transport being run for free.

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