A study report published by Chinese universities on 28th this month shows that pollution issues are seriously affecting the productivity of labor. China's GDP would increase by additional 0.079% per year, if its pollution can be decreased by 1% with measures almost without impact on industrial production.
"Reducing pollution is of course good for health, but it is also good for productivity," said Brian Viard, professor of strategy and economics at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business during an interview in Beijing, believing pollution control will definitely bring in economic benefits.
Although we look at pollution issues usually from a perspective of health, the report published jointly by Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, Xiamen University and The Hong Kong Polytechnic University focuses on the impact of pollution on the productivity of labor and economy.
According to the report, some workers in China are likely to ask for sick leave because of some serious health problems directly or indirectly caused by poor air quality. These health problems include pulmonary function decline, arrhythmia, respiratory diseases and angina pectoris.
Moreover, decline of health can also affect the cognitive ability of workers, leading to psychological problems and increase anxiety compromising work efficiency.
Workers are installing safety netting on earthwok at a construction site in Boxing County, Bingzhou, Shandong on November 5, 2017 (Xinhua News Agency)
Viard noted that in this context many enterprises have to replace elder employees with younger and less experienced ones, resulting in many demanding jobs lacking enough experienced workers. The study shows that many workers, especially high quality workers, would choose to leave polluted areas after long working in order to avoid health damage. In view of these factors, effective measures to reduce the concentration of PM2.5 will have a positive effect on all enterprises.
Reports claim that the Chinese government has started specific campaigns of pollution control. It is expected from October this year to March 2018, the average PM2.5 concentration in cities on the air pollution transmission route through Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei would be reduced by more than 15%, and the number of days with heavy pollution would be reduced by more than 15%. The average PM2.5 concentration in Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang and Xinji should be reduced by 25% over the same period of the previous year, and the number of days with heavy pollution should be reduced by 20%. To this end, the Chinese government is imposing strict monitoring of enterprises in installation and operation of discharge and pollution control facilities, requiring heavy polluters to stop and correct noncompliant practices urgently, and placing a focus on vehicles emitting excessive pollutants.
Capital Economics and some other consulting firms once warned that China's industrial production was likely to slow by 1% and the growth of the national GDP was likely to decrease by 0.5% in this winter due to such pollution control measures. Viard, however, encourages the government to initiate pollution control measures which has little impact on industrial production, such as those for controlling road dust, vehicle emissions and excessive production capacity.
Although the report focuses on manufacturing, experts believe decrease in the PM2.5 concentration would also improve productivity in the service sector and other sectors.
The report claims that the consequential impact of poor quality is obvious with many workers in the sector, such as courier service deliverers, who work outdoors around the day. It is necessary for employers of the service sector to provide employees with protection against pollution, because it is about not only health but also economic benefits.