Teachers are being poached from classrooms, nurses from hospitals and students are dropping out at record rates as Macau's workers continue to grab the gaming dollar. High salaries, excellent benefits and, in some cases, minimal training and rapid career advancement have lured hundreds from other careers into casinos, restaurants and hotels. The workforce shortage, combined with the growing focus on the gaming, hospitality and tourism sectors, has left many fearful for the future. Patrick Ho Wai-hong, assistant professor of economics at the University of Macau, said the government was playing a dangerous game. 'Right now, the government is letting the market decide where the economy should go,' Dr Ho said. 'There is an overemphasis on gaming and that is potentially very dangerous. It makes our economy susceptible to outside economic shocks that we have absolutely no control over.' Last year about 30 per cent of Macau's secondary school graduates took jobs in the gaming sector. Others simply quit study to follow careers in casinos. Graduates have been lured to casinos by good salaries. Dr Ho warned that the overemphasis on gaming would hurt Macau's human capital in the long run and it was crucial to develop and nurture other industries to ensure long-term stability. 'Perhaps if you are looking short term there is no immediate risk, but if the US economy gets in trouble or China liberalises gaming, Macau's economy and its workers are in very big trouble,' he said. 'We could end up with a talent pool of people with nowhere to work and inadequate people in areas where we really need them.' Already there is a massive shortage of labour in the manufacturing sector, schools are struggling to keep teachers, nurses are leaving hospitals and lawyers are taking jobs in human resources and casino management. Andrew Siu Ka-meng, associate professor of computer studies at the Macau Polytechnic Institute, agreed that Macau could not continue to rely on gaming alone. Professor Siu said the casino business was building an international reputation for Macau and that was the first crucial step on a roadmap to driving other industries. 'The ripple effect is happening now but it needs to take time,' he said. 'The casino businesses help build up the international branding of Macau, attracting some big companies to enter the economy, such as Microsoft, IBM and 7-Eleven.' He said this would create job opportunities in a wider variety of industries that were new to Macau. Assistant professor of management at the University of Macau, William Hickey, said the region needed to decide its identity so as to determine what training and managerial initiatives were required for the future. 'At the moment it is basically just a race for the cash,' Dr Hickey said. 'This is a marathon run, not a sprint and you have to prepare. We need to be asking what the long-term perspective is.' Dr Hickey said the lack of transparency in Macau's economy meant it was easy for the needs of constituents to be ignored, and the gap between rich and poor would continue to grow. With so much money pouring into Macau, there were many things that could be done to grow a variety of employment sectors, he said. These included reducing tuition fees to encourage students to stay at university, providing subsidies in areas that faced labour shortages, and pouring gaming revenue back into other sectors. He said the reality for some graduates was that the chance of securing a good job in their intended field was limited in Macau. 'We are now totally shaped by the gaming industry,' he said. 'This will see more and more qualified people in other industries move abroad or go to the mainland for work, and it will be difficult to entice them back. 'The government is collecting a large amount of tax revenue from gambling and it would be wise to use that huge amount of money to promote other industries.' Government policies allowing the import of labour are designed to ease the strain placed on Macau's manpower by the gaming boom. But the task is not easy as Macau is small and its expansion so rapid. In an effort to shift some focus from gaming, the government has introduced initiatives to promote Macau as an information technology hub and a centre for conventions, exhibitions and meetings. Professor Siu said Macau's public sector traditionally offered few job opportunities due to its stability and low turnover rate. He said it was no surprise that many viewed the rapidly expanding private sector as offering immense potential. But Dr Ho warned workers to look ahead and not at immediate cash incentives. 'We need to be telling students and young people that in order to survive, they need to make sure they have secondary skills,' he said.