Hiring crisis threatens Macau

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 June, 2012, 12:00am


As a rapidly growing gaming market, Macau is desperate for talented and experienced workers. The city had 28 million visitors, and enjoyed 21 per cent economic growth, last year - and is close to full employment.

With a population of more than 560,000, Macau's unemployment rate for February to April 2012 was just 2 per cent, according to the city's Statistics and Census Service.

'Right now, the number of workers available is zero,' says Queenie Zhu, director at MyJobs Macau, a human resources consultancy. 'The unemployment rate represents a group of people who either don't need a job or are unemployable.'

Casino operators such as Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment, MGM, Melco Crown Entertainment and SJM are competing for workers as they seek to expand their gaming businesses. But rules requiring firms to hire from Macau's population are driving up wages and jeopardising work quality.

Zhu says at least four casinos are in the pipeline in the next two to three years. With Macau's labour force of only 345,000, it is uncertain where they will find staff.

'Locally, the size of the labour force has not increased. When another casino project opens, it will need to fill up a few thousand positions. That will stretch the pool of labour, and we will need to hire from overseas,' Zhu says.

However, overseas hiring requires relocation and that involves a lot of documentation and administrative preparation. According to Zhu, employers are sometimes reluctant to make such an investment as they cannot guarantee candidates are suitable until they join.

'The mainland market has also become a major competitor, with more than 1,000 hotels opening every year,' Zhu adds. Meanwhile, businesses in general have evolved from the building to the maintaining stage. As such, staff requirements have changed.

Wynn Macau was the first Las Vegas-style integrated resort to start the mass-hiring model. 'Now, five years later, some of the local staff have been promoted to managerial level. So somehow, they have become a pool of higher-level employees,' Zhu says.

One upcoming property on Macau's Cotai Strip is Galaxy Macau Phase 2, scheduled for completion in mid-2015.

'We are still working through what the number [of staff] might be for that, but that is certainly a massive extension of our existing business at Galaxy Macau,' says Trevor Martin, senior vice-president of human resources and administration at Galaxy Entertainment Group.

Andrew Drysdale, the board chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), said that neither the quality nor the quantity of Macau's workforce can fulfil the sustainable development of the gaming and tourism industry.

The PATA report, therefore, includes a recommendation on improving workforce productivity. This involves addressing a migration policy specifically tailored to skilled workers, and developing the capacity to work with universities.