The number of Japanese residing in Shanghai plunged 17 percent last year, the first decline on record, amid worsening pollution, rising costs and a territorial dispute between China and Japan.
Japanese citizens living in the city dropped to about 47,700 as of October from 57,458 a year earlier, the Consulate-General of Japan in Shanghai said in a text message yesterday, based on data from Japan’s foreign affairs ministry.
Japanese numbers had risen steadily since the consulate began started compiling the data in 1994. In 2011, Shanghai passed New York as home to the second-largest Japanese community abroad, behind Los Angeles, the data show. Beijing ranked 17th in 2012, behind Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong. Comparative data for cities last year won’t be available until July, the consulate said.
Shanghai has lost some of its appeal among foreigners as a place to live. Last year, the city was hit by record levels of smog that prompted the government to draft a pollution action plan and pledge to replace coal-fired boilers and furnaces. For Japanese, a territorial dispute between their homeland and China over islands complicates life, as it prompted anti-Japan protests in Chinese cities including Shanghai in 2012.
“One reason why numbers are declining is that Japanese being sent by their companies aren’t bringing their families, because of PM2.5, bird flu and other factors,” Hitoshi Nakamura, secretary general of the Shanghai Japanese Commerce & Industry Club, a chamber-of-commerce-like body, said last month. “Lone Japanese postings without family are rising.”
PM2.5 pollutants are particles that are smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter and more dangerous to health than other particulate matter.
The number of children attending the city’s two Japanese schools declined to 2,912 as of April, from 3,175 a year earlier, the consulate said yesterday.
Despite the falling population, the number of Japanese companies doing business in the city is growing, Nakamura said. Members of the business group rose to 2,464 in April from 2,390 in December 2012, according to the consulate.
“Japanese companies look at China as an important market as the country is still experiencing about 7.5 percent growth,” Nakamura said. “But costs are rising for sending Japanese staff here. It’s just cheaper to hire local Chinese staff.”