Hardship pay for expats is not uncommon – but a Japanese electronics conglomerate is paying what is thought to be the world’s first ‘smog allowance’ to expats in China.
The quality of air in many of China’s cities is so poor that the pollution is considered a health risk by Panasonic, which operates several factories in China.
The firm has declined to put a number on how many expats will pick up the smog pay bonus or how much will be paid.
A Panasonic report said: “The company has a special pay review for employees sent to Chinese cities as a premium for a difficult and sometimes harsh living environment.”
Chinese government statistics agree that air quality is well below international standards in all but three of 74 major cities.
This has triggered health worries and a government drive to improve air quality by banning energy inefficient vehicles from the roads and shutting coal-fired furnaces and power stations
Panasonic is particularly concerned about a pollutant called PM2.5, which are small particles that lodge in the lungs and are believed to have resulted in hundreds of thousands of early deaths.
Levels of the pollutant are 16 times the top-end recommendation of the World Health Organisation in many Chinese cities – at 400 micrograms per cubic metre in comparison to the safe level of 25 micrograms.
Expat pay is often made up of several allowances that take into account hardship or risks of living in some foreign countries.
Besides the obvious payments for housing, health and private education for children, one little discussed bonus is for kidnap.
Many expat workers are routinely kidnapped and their employers held to ransom in some countries – especially Nigeria.
Some companies provide armed guards and decoy cars for expats because kidnapping is so rife.
The expat victims are often held for more than a day or two and released unharmed.
“It’s part of the job in some countries,” one expat who declined to be named, told iExpats.
“I’ve been kidnapped several times and held from anything from a few hours to a few days while the company pays up. Generally, you are treated well and there is little or no threat of violence. It’s almost a way of doing business.
“Expats are regularly held in Nigeria, and it happens so often it doesn’t even make the news.”