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From: Macau Business Daily
Date: 2012-12-10
Contact: Ms. Cathy Tsang   
Tel: 2826 2445     Email: cathytsang@macauhr.com

Open up market now, says job agency boss

If Macau wants to keep developing its economy it will have to change its human resources policy to support growth, says Alex Lu, the branch manager of macauHR.

Mr Lu told Business Daily that the city must overcome a big shortage of talent, especially talent to fill technical and management positions.

If the government wants to diversify the economy, it should open the labour market cautiously and gradually.

He predicts that unless there is change, there will not be enough workers to support more industries.



Should the government amend its human resources policy?

Government policy may need to change in accordance with the economic growth of Macau because it is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. Every year we can see new casinos, new hotel projects and new shopping malls opening. Local resources are not enough to support the increasing demands of the city’s new development. That is why Macau needs more workers from outside.

It needs to be controlled carefully and maybe the government can refer to other cities in Asia, such as Hong Kong or Singapore. Labour imports have to be managed carefully to ensure the protection of local people but also to make sure that the people in important positions in Macau have enough experience.



There were just a few mentions of the government’s human resources strategy in the Policy Address for 2013. Could this be the right time to introduce changes?

It is the right time for them to consider changing the policy. I would suggest focusing on the most demanding vacancies in Macau, such as technical and management positions.

For example, you can see some big construction projects being planned for Cotai in the coming years. But local people suited to being engineers and project managers are very difficult to find. Maybe the government can focus on some positions in planning its future policy on imported labour.

The reason why the government needs to import people from outside is because it is too difficult to find workers here. The government gives different quotas for work permits to different companies and different organisations. They can focus on some kind of industry or sector such as construction or medicine, and also top management positions, because it is very difficult to find these workers in the local market.



Human resources shortages are a recurrent issue because of the size of the population. Why is the government taking so long to open up to more imported labour?

Governments of every city need to protect local labour. They need to find a balance. It’s just like parents who need to protect their children but overprotecting is not a good thing. Children may have bad attitude – or [in the case of resident workers] bad service – so they need to strike a balance in educating them. The Macau government may need to provide more education or training to workers here but it also may need to import suitable competitors from outside.
The Hong Kong government has a more flexible policy. Should we be following some of their steps?

Hong Kong has also focused on importing technical and management people from other cities, including from mainland China. The difference is that Hong Kong is a financial centre and it has many industries but Macau mainly has gaming and the hotel industry.

Macau needs to have a very specific policy to control human resources. The government is doing everything to protect labour. The problem is they also need to make sure of development and that the organisations and businesses in Macau can hire people with the right qualifications more easily and experienced people to fit positions.



If nothing changes, what impact could it have on Macau’s development?

There is some impact on the economic growth of the city because of the vacancy of some important positions. For example, for a construction project in Cotai the consulting company and the contractor found it difficult to get a project manager to oversee the cost of the project. So engineering consulting firms need to slow down the project and do other things until they can hire suitable people to fit into these positions.

In Macau, hotels, casinos or small and medium-size enterprises may face some similar problems.

Also, if there is not a good balance between imported labour and protecting Macau people, service in some restaurants will not be satisfying and it can impact the tourist image of Macau. If we cannot provide a good image of the city, in the long run it can affect the economy.



The jobless rate decreased to 1.9 percent in the three-month period to October 31. What do the data tell us?

This means everyone can find a job if they want it. It means local labour is undersupplied for the current level of demand in the market. We can see that salary rates are increasing every year. Every year, around Chinese New Year, we can see news about which casinos have to increase wages for their staff.

For Macau people it is too easy to find a job here. If I’m not happy working in this company, then I can find another job easily in another company. It results in a lack of motivation to add value.

Another thing is that is lacking is enough competition in the labour market. Considering this very low unemployment rate, residents are able to find a job easily without enough competition for any specific position.



Does it add instability to the workplace, this high turnover rate?

The turnover rate is high. If workers change to another company, then they may have a salary increment. So people easily change jobs more frequently when compared to other cities, such as Singapore and Hong Kong. It’s a problem for the employer.

Sometimes I discuss this issue with our clients. Some of our clients also come from Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, if staff are not performing well, they can just directly tell them: “You can do this better.” But in Macau, if you are harsh towards the staff they will quit. It is difficult to find new people and if you do the same thing, they might quit again. It is more difficult to be an employer in Macau. It could potentially have a bad impact on the quality of work.



Do employers complain to you because they cannot keep employees for a longer time?

They don’t complain because they understand the market, especially for fresh graduates. They want a high salary but they don’t want too much workload, no working overtime, no shifts, and they expect a very good job, but they are not going to deliver more. They don’t want to learn more, they just want to find a job that is more comfortable, with more personal time.

It’s too easy to find a job in Macau. The talent shortage problem here is basically more for the technical and management positions. Because of the talent shortage for experienced people in Macau, those young people have more opportunities to be promoted to senior and management positions very quickly.

We can see in hotel groups that the age of senior managers may be below 30 years old. That is not easy to see in Hong Kong and Singapore because these territories have enough competition.

If, in Hong Kong, you just want to work in one company to be more stable and to work comfortably, then you have to study more to get promotion. It’s a more competitive working environment.



The government talks much about diversifying the economy. Is it possible to do so with the current human resources policy?

The human resources strategy and shortage is still not enough for Macau to support more industries in the long term. Education in Macau may also need to train up the students, to support economic growth.
Keyword:  macauHR, Human Resource Policy, Macau Government, Open market, Macau Development
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