By- Mukta kaushik
NEW DELHI: Calculations for effect of air pollution on productivity suggests that even a modest 10-unit reduction in national API level would increase the monetized value of office worker productivity by $2.2 billion per year. This also applies to wealthier countries. When in the USA the API exceeded the US Environmental Protection Agency standard of 100 for 90 days there was a productivity loss of $374 million.
So, a new generation of research in environmental economics has tried to capture less severe-but potentially more widespread-effects of pollution. Some of the subtle effects of pollution felt by people whose immune system is not compromised are; a headache, fatigue, impaired cognitive ability and etc. which affects one’s performance at work. Thus, Chang et al tried to capture the health effects of pollution on healthy individuals by examining productivity.
For this study, they chose employees of the call center from 2 cities in China. China was chosen for the study as there environment has been compromised for economic growth. Moreover, the reason behind choosing call center employees was that everybody knows that pollution affects workers performing physically challenging outdoor tasks like blue collared workers. But now the question arises is it so that pollution does not have any effect on white collared workers.
During the study, it was found that the number of calls a worker handles decreases as the “air pollution index (API)”, which is driven by particulate matter pollution in this setting increases. Many studies have already revealed that particulate matter can easily penetrate buildings.
It was seen that on an average a 10% increase in API was associated with a 0.3% drop in the number of calls handled each day. Thus, suggesting workers are more productive on low-pollution days than high-pollution days.
To make sure that pollution is the culprit controls for temperature were added. Also, tested whether pollution led to workers staying home or showing up late at work. That did not appear to be the case. Thus, ultimately it was established that pollution is the major culprit. If we compare the scenario between the Indian capital, Delhi and Chinese capital, Beijing we can see that the Particulate matter 10 is 229 in Delhi and 108 in Beijing whereas for PM 2.5 this is 122 and 85 respectively. From this data, we can analyze that the situation is much worse for Delhi as
compared to Beijing.
1. Chang, T, J Graff Zivin, T Gross, and M Neidell (2016), “The effect of pollution on worker productivity: Evidence from call-center workers in China”, NBER working paper, no. 22328. https://voxdev.org/topic/energy-environment/effect-pollution-worker-productivity-