Air pollution is driving expatriates out of Beijing and making it harder for companies to recruit international talent, according to anecdotal accounts from diplomats, senior executives and businesses.
No official figures are available on how many people are planning to leave after three months of the worst air pollution on record in the Chinese capital. But companies that mainly serve foreign residents are bracing for an exodus around the middle of the year when the school term ends.
"We're anticipating this summer will be a very big season [of moves out of Beijing] for us," said Chad Forrest, North China general manager for Santa Fe Relocations, a global service. "It seems a lot of people, particularly families with small children who have been here a few years, are reconsidering the cost-benefit equation and deciding to leave for health reasons."
Doctors at private hospitals that mostly treat expat patients tell a similar story.
"We don't have good statistics yet but we are seeing many more patients telling us they are leaving because of air pollution," said Dr. Andy Wong, head of family medicine at Beijing United Family hospital, the biggest private healthcare provider for foreign residents in China. "Recruitment is getting harder for all companies – how do you convince people to come work in the most polluted city in the world?"