BEIJING – With air pollution continuing to plague Beijing, there are increasing signs that it is pushing foreigners, often well-to-do expats, to leave the city.
"It's supposed to take up to a decade to solve the smog problem, but who knows what problems the pollution might have caused our bodies by then?" says Lin, a Malaysian national who has decided to leave Beijing with her husband and toddler after living in the city for 11 years, reports the Economic Observer.
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About 200,000 expats live in Beijing, and the visible air pollution – heavy smog that blankets the city – and alarmingly high pollution readings published by the U.S. embassy, is a subject that is constantly talked about.
The embassy monitors PM 2.5 fine particulates in Beijing’s air and publishes its finding hourly. There is even a dedicated twitter feed for concerned Beijing residents: @BeijingAir.
The impact of the foreigner exodus is starting to become visible in neighborhoods such as Sanlitun, a popular haunt for expats with its bars and international stores.
"The terrible air makes patients very anxious – particularly foreigners with children," says Richard Saint Cyr, a family doctor working at the Beijing United Family Hospital.
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Photo kevin dooley
Beijing’s foreign schools are also seeing a drop in numbers. Min (not his real name) was a student at an elite British school for boys. His family recently transferred him from Beijing to a private school in Hong Kong. When he got there, he found out that three of his teachers had also transferred to the same school to escape Beijing’s pollution.
So far there are no statistics to show how many foreign residents are leaving Beijing. One corporate headhunter said that the pollution was having a definite impact, with many high-paying posts vacant. He says requests for job postings in Shanghai and Beijing have dropped, and most candidates ask about the pollution situation before considering a job in the Chinese capital.
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Photo the measure of mike