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Expat workers given ‘pollution pay’ for smog

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People in Singapore appreciate air quality more than ever after dealing with some of the worse haze the country has ever seen this year, but employees in China have been dealing with hazardous air pollution for decades.

This is why Japanese electronics giant Panasonic has decided to give employees sent to work in China a type of ‘pollution pay’ to account for the country’s dangerous air pollution.

While hardship pay is not uncommon for expatriate workers shifting to countries like China, it is believed to be the first time a large international company has offered to compensate for poor air quality.

The decision was made as part of wider labour talks in Japan regarding boosting employees’ wages for the first time in years.

The Guardian reported a company document from the labour talks stated: “As for the premium for expatriates to compensate for a different living environment, the company will have a special review for those sent to Chinese cities.”

The document also referenced something called PM 2.5 – small particles which penetrate the lungs and have apparently been linked to an extortionate amount of premature deaths.

Levels of PM 2.5 have repeatedly reached more than 400 micrograms per cubic metre, which is 16 times the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) safety guidelines.

And the heavy smog is not limited to cities like Beijing – this article shows nine Chinese cities suffered from worse pollution than the capital in 2013.

Earlier this month, Chinese Premier Le Keqiang “declared war” on pollution, telling 3,000 delegates at the annual meeting of parliament “we will resolutely declare war against pollution as we declared war against poverty”.

The government already has plans to shut down 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces this year, as well as clean up major coal-burning power plants.

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