Air pol­lu­tion con­cerns po­ten­tial over­seas tal­ent

Fifty-five per­cent of polled for­eign work­ers wor­ried about en­vi­ron­ment

China Daily European Weekly - - China News - By SU ZHOU suzhou@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China’s prob­lems with air pol­lu­tion are un­der­min­ing gov­ern­ment ef­forts to make the coun­try more at­trac­tive to over­seas tal­ent, ac­cord­ing to re­cruit­ment pro­fes­sion­als. A sur­vey by Spring Pro­fes­sional, a sub­sidiary of hu­man re­sources com­pany Adecco Group, found that in­ter­est among top for­eign tal­ent in work­ing in China has risen nearly 150 per­cent over the past five years.

Yet fears over the en­vi­ron­ment and cli­mate have also in­creased. Fifty-five per­cent of 2,000 for­eign em­ploy­ees that Spring Pro­fes­sional polled last year — who had each lived in the coun­try for at least five years — said they had con­cerns about air qual­ity, up from 23 per­cent in 2012.

Air pol­lu­tion has hurt re­cruit­ment for the past two years, says Ma Er­man, head of over­seas re­cruit­ment for lan­guage train­ing com­pany EF English in Shi­ji­azhuang, He­bei prov­ince.

“Dur­ing in­ter­view pro­cesses, for­eign ap­pli­cants fre­quently check the air qual­ity in­dex,” she says. “Many will turn down an of­fer af­ter think­ing care­fully about their health. For those who work here in Shi­ji­azhuang, all of them will visit the hos­pi­tal sev­eral times, es­pe­cially dur­ing winter.

“He­bei doesn’t have many ad­van­tages to com­pete with coastal prov­inces, which have bet­ter economies and of­fer higher salaries, and air pol­lu­tion is mak­ing re­cruit­ment even more dif­fi­cult.”

Ac­cord­ing to data pro­vided by the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion, the av­er­age daily con­cen­tra­tion of PM2.5 — small par­tic­u­late mat­ter that is haz­ardous to health — in the coun­try’s 31 prov­inces, au­ton­o­mous re­gions and prov­inces was 47 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­ter last year, down by 6 per­cent from 2015 lev­els.

He Ke­bin, dean of Ts­inghua Univer­sity’s School of En­vi­ron­ment, pre­dicts it could take 10 to 15 years for most of the heav­ily pol­luted Chi­nese cities to meet the na­tional air qual­ity stan­dard.

China has been watched closely by for­eign job ap­pli­cants in re­cent years due to the rapid de­vel­op­ment of its econ­omy and its open­ness to over­seas tal­ent.

Hu Xin, a se­nior con­sul­tant at Spring Pro­fes­sional, says China has be­come more com­pet­i­tive in the tal­ent war com­pared with five years ago.

“China has an ad­van­tage over Euro­pean coun­tries, whose econ­omy, so­cial or­der and po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions are de­te­ri­o­rat­ing,” Hu says. “In 2015 and 2016, many pri­vate firms in China had a grow­ing de­mand for high-end over­seas tech­ni­cal tal­ent and they are will­ing to pro­vide at­trac­tive salaries and op­por­tu­ni­ties for pro­mo­tion.”

How­ever, many ex­pats are hav­ing sec­ond thoughts as air pol­lu­tion has be­come a longterm is­sue.

Will Suh, 27, stayed in Bei­jing for six months last year. “I miss China, but I had to come back to Cal­i­for­nia. Maybe I will go back to China, but I think I will choose Shang­hai or Guangzhou,” he adds.

GUO JUNFENG / FOR CHINA DAILY

CHINA HAS BEEN WATCHED closely by for­eign job ap­pli­cants in re­cent years due to the rapid de­vel­op­ment of its econ­omy and its open­ness to over­seas tal­ent, but air pol­lu­tion has hurt the re­cruit­ment.

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