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January 23, 2014

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Home » Business » Economy

Pollution a reason to emigrate

Pollution is becoming an increasingly important factor in driving emigration, posing challenges for the country’s economy as many more professionals, and their cash, head abroad, according to a report.

Skilled professionals emigration and investment emigration are playing a larger role in increasing China’s “migration deficit” — the number of emigrants compared to immigrants — the non-profit Center for China & Globalization think tank said in a report released yesterday.

The number of overseas Chinese exceeded 9.3 million last year, more than double that in 1990, the report said, citing United Nations figures. But a 2010 population census showed the country is home for under 600,000 immigrants.

“China has been in migrant deficit throughout modern history as local laborers continuously moved to more developed cities for a better living,” the report said, “but the contemporary trend of skilled and investment emigrants has a huge impact on society.”

The report said the majority of Chinese emigrants were between 35 and 55 years old, an age group that it described as the “mainstay of society.”

When these people go abroad, there is also an outflow of wealth, the report said.

In 2012, 6,124 Chinese people left for the US, taking US$3 billion-US$6 billion with them. The total capital outflow is even more significant when taking into consideration their house purchases, consumption and spending on education, the report said.

“These people are usually influential in society,” it added. “The loss of middle class elites to some extent dampens momentum for reform and progress in China. This is a loss that cannot be made up for.”

A 2012 report by Boston Consultant Group said China’s wealthy had already allocated a combined 2.8 trillion yuan (US$462 billion) assets abroad. The agency defined the wealthy as those with personal investable assets of more than 6 million yuan.

Seeking better education for children remains the top driver behind a decision to emigrate, while environmental concerns are increasingly a factor for the wealthy, the report said.

More than 70 percent of the wealthy chose the quality of the environment and health care as important factors in a decision to emigrate, a survey by Shenzhen-based New Fortune Magazine said last year.

“We expect that disappointment and distrust of the living environment will be a significant driver for a new tide of emigration,” yesterday’s report said.

The center is calling for government efforts to minimize risks of excessive emigration by improving education, fighting food and air pollution, tightening regulations on emigration agencies, promoting domestic reform, and easing immigrant restrictions for skilled foreigners.



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