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Imported labour cuts hinder economic diversification - MSS in Macau Daily Times

Imported labour cuts ‘hinder’ economic diversification

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image The opening of Galaxy Macau and Sands China parcels 5 and 6 in Cotai next year will create ‘a clear gap between demand and supply of human resources,’ economist Davis Fong said


Since September 2008, the number of non-resident workers in Macau has been sliced by more than 31,000, according to the latest data from the Statistics and Census Service. This decrease endangers the diversification of the economy, one of the priorities announced by Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On last March during the 2010 Policy Address, economist Davis Fong told Macau Daily Times (MDT).
“Right now we can’t diversify the economy, because there aren’t enough qualified human resources,” he warned. The opening of the Galaxy Macau and the Sands China parcels 5 and 6 in Cotai next year will require 22,000 more workers, according to MSS Recruitment’s Macau Job Market 2010 overview, released last month.
“Our education system generates around 5,000 graduates every year. But not every one of them will be willing to participate in the gaming industry, also because the revenue boom will stimulate investments in other areas. In the end there will be a clear gap between demand and supply of human resources,” Fong said.

‘Economy is going back  to normal, there will be a increase in the number of jobs, both for locals and non-residents,’ Jiji Tu said

The diversification of the local economy will require more workers, namely in the hospitality industry, the University of Macau professor stressed. The current number of hotel rooms is “not good enough,” because even though the occupancy rate is high “only 25 percent of the visitors” actually book a room. “If we encourage people to stay longer” the local market will need more rooms, and then more staff, Davis Fong explained.
At the end of June, the total number of migrant workers stood at 72,142, down by 701 quarter-by-quarter. But the real trend only becomes visible by looking further back in time. In fact, imported labour has been falling consecutively since the third quarter of 2008. Since the end of September that year, the number of non-resident workers was reduced by almost a third (30.15 percent), 31,139.
The Government’s decision to give priority to locals was taken two years ago, during the global financial tsunami. “The crisis is basically over,” Davis Fong stressed. A vision confirmed to MDT by the MSS Recruitment managing director Jiji Tu: “Economy is going back to normal, there will be a increase in the number of jobs, both for locals and non-residents.”
However, she added, “the policy of tightening imported labour continues the same, it hasn’t been loosened up.” As such, the Administration “needs to reconsider its policy. Right now it’s a good time for the authorities and the society to think about the future development of Macau,” Davis Fong concluded.

New bylaw brings ‘instability’

Just in 2010, imported labour has dropped by 2,763 to the lowest level since the first quarter of 2007. The downward trend is likely to continue in the current quarter, with the bylaw that regulates the hiring of migrant workers coming into effect on July 31.
The regulation states that, if any local worker were to leave, the company should hire another one within two weeks. If that’s not possible, the Human Resources Office will then evaluate whether or not the employer will have to reduce the number of its non-resident workers.
This new mechanism “may create instability” in certain economic sectors, Fong warned. The implementation of the bylaw “will need adjustments because one method for all industries maybe not be enough,” he explained.
According to recent news, hundreds of non-local workers did not have their contracts renewed last month, just prior to the enactment of the new bylaw.
For instance, Ponte 16 Hotel laid off around 200 non-local workers. “The Government renewed our foreign labour quota and it was reduced. We had to let go almost 200 non-resident workers, in all sectors of business,” deputy chief executive officer Hoffman Ma told MDT.
“We are trying our best to hire locals for these positions but locals are not willing to work in some of these positions,” he bemoaned. “We are trying to manage [with less workers] without reducing the quality of our service.”
The Government has already approved a minimum ratio of 1:1 between local and imported workers in the construction industry. Such a mechanism “may not work in other industries,” the Gaming Management professor said. A fear shared by Jiji Tu, who believes there should be “different ratios for the different sectors and job categories.”
The new bylaw will make it “even harder” to get authorisation to hire imported labour, the Macau Small and Medium Enterprises Association said. In a reply sent to MDT from the association, they said the the regulation had to some extent already “led to the decrease in the number of non-resident workers” in Small and Medium Enterprises (SME). Local workers “do not want to stay” at an SME and leave “as soon as they get a change to join the gaming industry, big enterprises or Government departments,” the association explained.

Chinese boost population

Furthermore, the number of people who received an authorisation to reside in Macau dropped for the second consecutive quarter. From 1,948 in the first three months of 2010 this figure, which mostly comprises qualified expatriates, dropped to just 847. It’s the lowest number of non-permanent residence ID cards issued in the last seven years.
The birth rate also paints a gloomy picture for the long-term future of MSAR. In the second quarter of 2010, only 1,122 babies were born, 5.7 percent down from the previous period. The number of live births has already decreased almost 20 percent since the beginning of the year to the lowest figure in a year.
Nonetheless, the Macau population continues to rise, for the third consecutive quarter. The estimated number of inhabitants went up by 2,200 to reach 544,600 at the end of June, the highest figure since the first quarter of 2009.
This increase is closely linked to a surprising jump in the number of mainland Chinese coming to work in MSAR. After two quarters on the decline, the one-way exit permits issued more than doubled to 2,009, when in the previous period it was only 758. This boost is the highest in almost six years.

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