Macau – A factual analysis in the labor force structure of this gambling hub

Grand Lisboa of Macau, originally uploaded by Azchael.

With the help of the DSEC (Statistics and Census Service), which have collected the below represented information and summarized them for easier reading, I would like to dive into the current situation of labor force in Macau. As it is not a secret, Macau’s main source of income is Gaming and its related taxation. For the majority of citizens in Macau either a direct employment or an indirect service provision towards the gambling industry (construction, supply, logistics, etc.) are the main source of income.

Protectionism of the labor market

With plans for further expansion of the gaming industry in Cotai set up for 2016/2017, there are already arguments whether or whether not the core-gambling-related job (dealer) should be allowed to have foreign workers instead of purely Macanese citizens. Naturally it seems that the protection of local labor force is valued higher than the option to introduce foreign labors. But is that a good thing?

Protectionism of whatever kind has always restricted competition and with a lack of competition the incentive to improve/create/develop/educate oneself is considerably lower. Having a look at the current distribution of educational levels across the labor force one can see that less than a third of all available labors in Macau has a so called “tertiary degree”.



(Graphic taken from Employment Survey Q2 2013 – link goes to PDF)

This distribution is given for a total labor force of 351 thousand persons. Looking closer into this figure, 28.7% of these citizens are aged 25-34:


(Chart created based on figures found in Employment Survey Q2 2013 – link goes to PDF)

There are many conclusions that can be drawn from the above figures, such as:

  • Overall employable population seems to be stable and not going to change tremendously over the next 8-9 years (If one takes age group “16 to 24” (10.20%, figure not shown above) as “newcomers” to the market and age group “55 to 64” as “phase outs”).
  • The majority of employable residents is still aged 35 and above (35 to 65+ equals 61% of labor market), which means that over 60% of the labor force had (most likely) already completed their education prior to the handover of Macau to China in 1999 and prior to the boom of Casino industry

Unfortunately no split down is present in the Employment Survey about the age distribution of either industry profession or educational level, both interesting indicators on the current state of the business industry. Nevertheless a rough picture can be drawn on how the labor force is being built up.The current state of higher education

No going to have a closer look at those jobs that are usually being referred to as “professional” or “technical” jobs, i.e. classified as having to use a “tertiary degree”. In Macau the distribution of enrolled university students across all 10 institutes is shown as below:



(Chart created using figures from Education Survey 2011/2012 – link goes to PDF)

  • As can be clearly seen most students are focussing on sciences that would enable them to perform a job function within the Gamin industry (Business / Tourism) whereas industrial jobs such as engineering or IT are underrepresented.
  • From the above 2011/2012 figures and in total 25212 students enrolled, a total of 6158 students graduated (with either degree) from university, hence would be potentially available for the job market. That means every year between 5000 to 6000 university students would be available to take a job.
  • With a total labor force population of 351 thousand persons, an figure of 6158 tertiary degree holders would represent 1.7% of the total population.

The above figures are speaking for the tertiary (university) education of Macau without qualifying this educational level. Speaking on a world comparison basis, one needs to have a look at the 10 institutes represented in above figures. Having a look at the “Ranking Web of Universities” for Macau, one can see that the best Macau university is ranked 1104th in the the world, with two institutes even well below that rank in the ten thousands.


The dangers of a non-diverse industry

In summary looking at the above, i.e. the available labor force, their current state of education and the choices recent university students have made, along with the (subjective) quality level of institutes provided, the following conclusions can be drawn:

  • Macau is heaviliest focussed (as well known) on the Gaming Industry
  • Newcomers to the labor market are Gaming / Casino focussed with a minority branching out into other industries.
  • It needs to be analyzed what measures or activities are being introduced into the market to either stimulate the growth of a second industry or whether or whether the long term indicators for tourism are showing a rise or decline in visitors.

If within a very short period of time, Macau would suffer a decline in visitors to the Gaming industry the overall labor market would take a huge blow as there seem to be no viable short term option of employment outside the current industry network of Casinos, their suppliers and subsuppliers.

If time allows, I will continue to dive into the statistics as provided by Macau and analyze further. Please leave your comments below.


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