China Now Learning It Has 'Environmental Migrants'
Since the beginning of winter, many of China's cities, including the capital, have been smothered in smog repeatedly. The horrendous air quality not only depresses people, it is also driving more and more of them to pack up and leave cities – and even to consider emigration.
The latest Hurun Report of the richest Chinese, published in July by the Hurun Research Institute in Shanghai, showed that pollution is one of the top three reasons cited by wealthy people for leaving the country for good. The other two reasons are seeking better education for children and food-safety concerns. The report said about one-third of China's richest people have emigrated.
Though studies on a direct relationship between pollution and international migration are limited, research by professors in Singapore offers a good glimpse into the issue. Based on studies of 153 large cities and on data from Baidu, China's largest search engine, it is clear that the more serious the air pollution, the more people make online searches using keywords related to emigration.
Using daily air quality index (AQI) data published by cities, the researchers found out that when smog worsens, search keywords like "mask," "haze" and "PM 2.5" increase by as much as 12.7 percent, 27.1 percent and 32.1 percent, respectively. When a city's AQI increased by 100 points, residents' searches on topics related to moving away rose by 2.3 to 4.7 percent the next day.
The effect of air pollution on emigration-linked searches thus seems to be much lower than on keywords like "mask" or "haze." But this is understandable, since only the richest people can possibly consider leaving the country as one of their options, while nearly everybody can afford a mask.
Air pollution also seems to affect people in major cities differently. Beijingers exhibit the strongest desire to flee the smog, while people in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen appear less distressed. One possible reason is that air pollution in the capital is much worse than in the other three mega cities.
The far-reaching impacts of this new reason for emigration are not to be ignored. Both brain drain and capital flight are to the exporting country's disadvantage. Career perspectives and a desire for more income are usually the biggest reasons for people to leave their home country. But now China is beginning see it will have to deal with the ramifications of "environmental migrants."
Ma Liang is a columnist at CNPolitics.org and Caixin Weekly
- ChemChina's Purchase of Syngenta Held Up by European Antitrust Review
- Postal Savings Bank of China Falls on Hong Kong Exchange as Stabilization Period Ends
- Unfounded Media Reports on New 'High-Income' Tax Bracket Cause Stir
- Regulators Beef Up Curbs on Property Developers' Efforts to Generate Funds
- Australian Government Panel Approves Chinese Group's Offer for Vitamin Maker
- JD.com Fires 10 Employees for Graft
- Management Changes, Police Probe Highlight Difficulties Facing Ping An Bank
- HNA Buys 25% Stake in Hilton for $6.5 Billion
- Transparency, Better Institutions Needed to Push Anti-Corruption Drive Forward
- Closer Look: Is Cutting Steel Overcapacity Working as Well As it Appears?
- Sign up to receive our free daily newsletter
- Chinese Workers' Salaries Fail to Keep Pace with GDP Growth, Study Finds
- Air China Jet Flies in Wrong Direction after Takeoff
- Air-Scrubbing Tower Gives Beijingers Breathing Room
- China's Largest Cities Attracting Fewer Migrants, Study Shows
- Holiday-Season Ticket Sales See First Decline In Nearly Decade
- Gap Between Outbound Direct Investment, Foreign Direct Investment Continues to Grow
- Poor Parenting Hinders Development of China's Rural Children, Study Shows
- Debt-To-Equity Can't Be The Only Way to Deal With Corporate Debt
- Online Travel Site Qunar Agrees to $4.44 Billion Buyout
- Senior Party Officials Indicted for Corruption Appear in New TV Show