Panasonic offers pollution pay to workers in 'toxic' Beijing

Mar 13, 2014

'Nuclear winter' in Beijing leads Panasonic to compensate staff for severity of Chinese pollution

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

JAPANESE electronics firm Panasonic has announced a new pollution-related "hardship bonus" to workers who live in Beijing.

Employees in China's smog-plagued capital will receive a bump in pay for enduring conditions Chinese scientists say are beginning to resemble a "nuclear winter". The deal comes as part of Panasonic's latest round of pay negotiations, the BBC reports.

Chinese premier Li Keqiang declared a "war on pollution" in his opening address at this year's annual meeting of the Chinese parliament, known as the National People's Congress.

Air pollution regularly reaches hazardous levels in China. Last week, scientists compared the situation to a nuclear winter and revealed that the toxic smog was now even impeding photosynthesis in plants, something that could end up "wreaking havoc" on the country's food supply.

Conditions in China are so bad that many Japanese workers are reluctant to relocate, but Panasonic is hoping that the pay increase will create an incentive to move.

The Japanese electronics firm is the first to explicitly acknowledge the severity of the problem, the Financial Times says.

"That's the first time I've heard any company be quite so brazen about it," said Robert Parkinson, head of Beijing-based recruiter RMG Selection. "The normal style would be to dress it up as a 'developing country allowance'. It's a bit like saying we know we are exposing you to something that could be life-threatening. We're going to admit it and compensate you for it."

Several Western embassies have installed air filtration systems for diplomats living in Beijing, and many global firms are struggling to convince foreign workers to move to the Chinese capital, the Financial Times says.

Governmental efforts to reduce smog have had limited success, due to the country's reliance on coal power. A recent analysis of air quality across 74 Chinese cities revealed that only four met national air quality standards.

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