Press Room

Jiji Tu on TDM Talk Show: Balance of Skilled Labour a Problem in Macau-MSS in Macau Daily Times



THE main problem of the Macau job market is “the match between the demand and the supply of labour with the necessary skills,” said managing director of MSS Recruitment, Jiji Tu.

Tu explained that that the measures put in place to promote job opportunities for local residents “are welcome” but “they should not be too extreme” because “it is necessary to leverage on foreign workers to continue our growth.”
Appearing on last weekend’s TDM Talk Show, Jiji Tu revealed that since the end of 2009, Macau companies have begun hiring again. However, she said that “some of our clients and companies are still struggling to hire frontline staff.” She said that despite the “very low” unemployment rate we “constantly see headline news about how to protect the local workers.”
For the human resources specialist the problem is not so much about finding bodies, but getting labour with appropriate skills. Tu said, “the problem is the match between the demand and the supply of labour with the necessary skills”. “If we could place all the 9,600 unemployed people into the job openings that companies are struggling to occupy, then there would be no problems with the local job opportunities,” explained Tu.
The MSS Recruitment executive pointed to gaps in two areas of the Macau workforce: “one is the supply of labour and the second is a skills and knowledge gap.” Since the local economy started “going up again,” said Tu, “the most in-demand jobs in Macau in terms of volume are actually frontline staff in the hospitality and tourism sectors, for example room attendants, FMB [front, middle, back office] service staff or drivers”. As a “service-oriented economy,” without this staff, Tu warns that the Macau economy “will not be able to grow.”
Technical personnel in demand
The gaming sector is the biggest employer in the MSAR, followed by the hospitality industry and the retail business. Yet “the interesting fact not many people are aware of is that the number of employees hired by the hospitality and retail sectors has never slowed down, it’s been growing quarter-on-quarter, even during the 2008-2009 recession,” said Tu.
According to the human resources expert, the only sectors with reduced number of jobs were the gaming sector, which slashed 6,000 to 7,000 employees, and the construction industry. At the hospitality sector’s frontline, “if coming from a local force, probably the requirements are pretty similar to the gaming sector entry-level positions, like dealers,” she said. However “the positions in hospitality business are not paying as well as the entry-level jobs in the gaming sector so we see the supply cannot meet the demand,” bemoaned Tu.
The local executive praised the training offered to the students of Hotel Management at the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT). “Nevertheless, probably a lot of them may not actually be willing to get into the frontline, but straight at the director level of the hospitality industry,” she said.
Another area very much in demand in Macau is “highly skilled technical personnel,” revealed Tu, because of the construction of high-tech infrastructures, not only in the private sector but also in the public sector, like the Delta River Bridge and the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) system. “Macau doesn’t have a real technical force to handle that so the jobs needed could be anywhere from IT [Information Technology] to telecommunication to database security,” she said.
Leaders wanted
The economic slowdown could actually be an opportunity for employers “to look at their internal retention and staff engagement programme,” she proposed. The wages in Macau “will not continue to grow exponentially as before,” warned Tu, so the companies with “the right retention strategies will likely have a higher staff retention rate and a lower turnover rate” which she said was particularly important in Macau due to its very small labour pool.
Most local companies “have a very strong training and development team,” the specialist acknowledged, and they are “constantly identifying the skill knowledge gaps among their workforce, developing shorter and accelerated training programs so they can keep pace with the business needs”. She said firms were also introducing flexible working hours or creating team activities “to create a strong sense of belonging and team spirit.”
At the end of the day, said Tu, “what is most critical for staff retention is effective leadership.”
“A company with a good retention rate is most likely to have a leader who is regarded by his staff as a role model,” she underlined. Macau has “a big need for great leaders and managers among the local labour force” and many companies, she said, “are developing the right succession planning or career paths for high-potential local workers.”
Jiji Tu welcomes the measures to protect job opportunities for local residents. However, she warned, “they should not be too extreme and they should be relevant to the specific job sectors.”
“For areas where there is a gap in skill knowledge and supply of labour, it is necessary to leverage on foreign workers to continue our growth,” stated Tu.
In the next decade the balance between local and imported labour “will continue to be very sensitive,” predicted the specialist. Nonetheless, she believes “Macau will remain a very attractive career destination” with “wonderful prospects” for qualified expatriates. For local workers the main issue will be “a gradual change of mindset.” “Do they just want an immediate salary increase and job promotion or are they looking at a long-term career growth strategy with a company that will provide them with that?” asked Tu.