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Expatriates leaving Beijing due to pollution

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Expatriates leaving Beijing due to pollution

Many people choose to live and work overseas to further their careers and seek new employment opportunities. In recent years, Asian cities such as Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore have proven popular destinations for expatriates due to the abundance of jobs and housing, such as furnished extended stay apartments. The influx of expats into Asia has improved the regional economies of these cities, and many expats see emerging international markets such as China as a major growth opportunity. However, overdevelopment and increasing industrialization have contributed to heightened levels of pollution, which is driving many expatriates away from cities such as Beijing, according to the South China Morning Post.

Negative consequences
The news source reports that Beijing's worsening air quality is having a detrimental impact on the number of expats choosing to live and work in the city. Chronic air pollution is becoming a major public health concern in the city, and many international workers are relocating elsewhere.

Smog blankets much of the city during the day, with levels of respirable air particles fluctuating between 200 and 900 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The World Health Organization recommends that acceptable levels of particulate matter should be around 25 micrograms per cubic meter. 

Many residents of Beijing wear masks when traveling outside to mitigate the potential health risks associated with the city's poor air quality. Some individuals, such as Joshua Dyer, a translator from the U.S., recall the environmental initiatives that were put in place to improve pollution during the Olympic Games in 2008, but said he is considering leaving Beijing due to the deteriorating air quality.

"The air pollution is one reason I know I can't stay much longer here," Dyer told the news source. "I feel the bad air affects me psychologically as well. I feel sluggish on heavily polluted days."

Expatriate migration
Although cities such as Beijing are losing their luster due to pollution, other Asian metropolises are becoming increasingly popular with expatriates. However, while the influx of expatriate professionals into Southeast Asia may be welcome news for regional economies, individuals should be prepared to pay higher prices for property in these areas, reports Expatriate Healthcare News.

The news source reports that, according to property management company Knight Frank, expatriates living and working in Asian cities could see an increase in property prices of up to 20 percent this year. Cities such as Bangkok and Jakarta are expected to see the highest rate hikes by the end of the year. 

Government incentives have made these cities popular with expatriates, as foreign investment is seen as a key driver of economic growth. While many individuals choose to stay in corporate lodging or temporary housing such as short term rental apartments upon arrival in a new country, purchasing property is often a high priority for expatriates. The increase in prices could ultimately affect the steady flow of expats seeking work in Southeast Asia.

A scarcity of housing in traditional expat hubs such as Hong Kong and Singapore has forced regional governments to dissuade foreigners from purchasing property in these cities, which could also negatively affect international investment. Expatriates buying property in Hong Kong are typically subject to a 15 percent stamp duty payment, following the introduction of new legislation last October.

"The possibility of further government intervention to reduce house price inflation in these times of low interest rates is likely to remain, posing a risk to several residential markets over the next 12 months," said Nicholas Holt, Asia Pacific research director for Knight Frank, as quoted by the news source.