International edition
September 25, 2020

Joblessness is at the lowest since 2002

Macau labor shortage seen as hurdle for casino expansion

(Macau).- Macau’s us$ 34 billion gaming industry has an obstacle. With 28 million visitors and 21 % economic growth last year, it is confronting a severe labor shortage. The Chinese city is the world’s largest gambling hub by revenue and is close to full employment.

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s a result, casino operators such as Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and Hong Kong-traded Galaxy Entertainment Group are having trouble finding workers as they seek to draw more of the Chinese tourists who drove gambling revenue up 42 percent last year. Rules requiring firms to hire staff from Macau’s population of about half a million are driving up wages and have casino operators scrambling for card dealers, construction workers and executives.

“It’s a challenge everybody faces,” said Edward Tracy, chief executive officer at Sands China “You have a base population of 500,000 and an unemployment rate of 2.1 percent. That 2.1 is almost zero: those people are probably not looking for a job.”

Joblessness in Macau is at the lowest since Bloomberg began tracking the data in 2002. It contrasts with the 15 percent monthly unemployment rate in Portugal, 8.1 percent in the U.S. and Spain’s 24 percent. The rules not only make it harder to hire staff, they also contribute to a rise in wages, though casino profits aren’t suffering.

Surging profits

At Sands China, for example, the Asian unit of billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas company, profit rose sixfold in the three years through 2011. Tracy says a big worry is the 4,000 positions he’d like to fill. In December, average earnings, excluding bonuses and allowances, of full-time employees rose by 6.5 percent in the gaming sector to us$ 2,090, according to government data.

The gambling industry’s need for more workers, however, has hurt small businesses such as restaurants by forcing them to raise wages to compete with the casinos, said Fung Kwan, head of the economics department at the University of Macau.

“Labor shortage has been an ongoing problem for Macau,” said Kwan. “The recent casino developments have exacerbated the problem and we’ve seen the casinos nabbing labor from other sectors. Labor cost for the whole of Macau is rising.” Gaming revenue represented about 40 percent of Macau’s gross domestic product last year, he said.

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