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Economy of Macau
Macau Skyline (157931361).jpeg
Currencypataca (MOP) ; Hong Kong Dollar (HKD)[1][2][3]
calendar year
Trade organisations
WTO
Country group
Statistics
PopulationIncrease 631,636 (2018)[6]
GDP
  • Increase $54.545 billion (nominal, 2018)[7]
  • Increase $77.360 billion (PPP, 2018)[7]
GDP rank
GDP growth
  • 9.7% (2017) 4.7% (2018)
  • −4.7% (2019)[8] −52.3% (2020e)[7]
GDP per capita
  • Increase $81,728 (nominal, 2018)[7]
  • Increase $115,913 (PPP, 2018)[7]
GDP by sector
  • most open in the world since its handover to China in 1999. Apparel exports and gambling-related tourism are mainstays of the economy. Since Macau has little arable land and few natural resources, it depends on mainland China for most of its food, fresh water, and energy imports. Japan and Hong Kong are the main suppliers of raw materials and capital goods. Although Macau was hit hard by the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis and the global downturn in 2001, its economy grew approximately 13.1% annually on average between 2001 and 2006.[15] Macau is a full Member of the World Trade Organization.[16] Public Security has greatly improved after handover to People's Republic of China.[17] With the tax revenue from the profitable gambling industry, the Macau government is able to introduce the social welfare program of 15 years of free education to all Macau citizens.[18] In 2015, Macau's economy saw a sharp decrease (-26.4% year-on-year in Q2 2015) due to the reduced spending by visitors from Mainland China since Anti-corruption campaign under Xi Jinping.[19]

    During the first three quarters of 2007, Macau registered year-on-year GDP increases of 31.4%.[15] A rapid rise in the number of mainland visitors due to China's easing of travel restrictions, increased public works expenditures, and significant investment inflows associated with the liberalisation of Macau's gaming industry drove the five-year recovery. The budget also returned to surplus after 2002 because of the surge in visitors from China and a hike in taxes on gambling profits, which generated about 70% of government revenue. The Hong Kong dollar is itself a reserve currency for the Macanese pataca, which is pegged at the official rate of around 1 Hong Kong dollar to 1.03 Macanese pataca.[20]

    History

    Macau was a barren fishing village with a population of about 400 before the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century, during the Age of Discovery.[21] In 1535, the Portuguese traders obtained by bribing the right to anchor ships in Macau harbours and engage in trading activities. Portuguese and Chinese merchants flocked to Macau, and it quickly became an important regional trading center in Portugal's lucrative trade along three major routes: Macau-Malacca-Goa-Lisbon, Guangzhou-Macau-Nagasaki and Macau-Manila-Mexico.[22] However, with the decline of Portugal as a world power in the 17th and 18th centuries, the trading routes were challenged by other powers such as the Dutch and the British. After China ceded Hong Kong to the British in 1842, Macau's position as a major regional trading center declined further still because larger ships were drawn to the deep water port of Victoria Harbour. In an attempt to reverse the decline, from 1848 to the early 1870s Macau engaged in the infamous trade of coolies (slave labourers) as a transit port, shipping locals from southern China to Cuba, Peru, and other South American ports to work on plantations or in mines.[22]

    Fishing re-emerged as a dominant economic activity in Macau as it lost its position as a regional trading center. In the early 1920s, over 70% of Macau's 84,000 residents were engaged in fishing.[21] Meanwhile, some other businesses started to develop, such as matches, firecrackers, incense and fishing-boat building. But the most notable was the gambling business. Gambling was first legalised in the 19th century in an attempt to generate revenues for the government. The first casino monopoly concession was granted to the Tai Xing Company in 1937.[23] The company was, however, too conservative to fully exploit the economic potential of gambling. The industry saw a major breakthrough in 1962 when the government granted the Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM), a syndicate jointly formed by Hong Kong and Macau businessmen, the monopoly rights to all forms of gambling. The STDM introduced western-style games and modernised the marine transport between Macau and Hong Kong, bringing millions of gamblers from Hong Kong every year.[21]

    In the 1970s Macau also saw a rapid development in its manufacturing sector. With Macau's low-cost operating environment and its surplus quotas under the Multi Fiber Arrangement (MFA), many Hong Kong industrialists established textile and garment manufacturing bases in Macau. At its golden age in the 1980s, the manufacturing sector accounted for about 40% of Macau's GDP; textiles and garments accounted for about 90% of Macau's total visible exports.[21] However, the manufacturing sector has experienced a gradual decline since the early 1990s due to phasing out of the MFA quota system and the rising labour costs relative to mainland China and Southeast Asian countries.

    Labor and employment

    Employed population by occupation 2007[24]
    Occupation No. in thousands
    Senior officials/managers 14.6
    Professionals 9.9
    Technicians 28.1
    Clerks 83.7
    Service & sale workers 63.2
    Workers in agriculture/fishery 0.8
    Craft & similar workers 33.7

    The work force in Macau is mainly composed of manufacturing; construction; wholesale and retail; hotels and restaurants; financial services, real estate, and other business activities; public administration and other personal and social services, including gaming; transport, storage and communications. Due to the double-digit economic growth in recent years, the unemployment rate dropped from the record high 6.8% in 2000 to 3.1% in Qtr 3, 2007.[25]

    With the opening of several casino resorts and other major constructions underway, it is reported that many sectors, especially the construction sector, experience a shortage of labour. The government responds by importing labour from other neighbouring regions, including mainland China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and India. Currently the number of imported labours stands at a record high of 75,391 (Q2 2007), representing more than a quarter of the labour force in Macau.[26][27] Some local workers complain about the lack of jobs due to the influx of cheap imported labour. Some also claim that the problem of illegal labour is severe.[28] Another concern is the widening of income inequality in the region: Macau's Gini coefficient, a popular measure of income inequality where a low value indicates a more equal income distribution, rises from 0.43 in 1998 to 0.48 in 2006. It is higher than those of other neighbouring regions, such as mainland China (0.447), South Korea (0.316) and Singapore (0.425).[29]

    The monetary system

    BNU Tower in Macau.

    Macau adopts the so-called currency board system under which the legal tender, pataca (MOP), is 100 percent backed by foreign exchange reserves, the Hong Kong dollar (HKD). Moreover, the currency board, Monetary Authority of Macao (AMCM), has a statutory obligation to issue and redeem pataca on demand against Hong Kong dollar at a fixed exchange rate and without limit. The pataca is pegged to the Hong Kong dollar at a rate of 1.03 MOP per HKD, which is maintained by the AMCM.[30]

    Each pataca divides into 100 avos. Coins are issued in 10, 20, and 50 avos and 1, 2, 5, and 10 patacas (2 and 10 patacas coins are rarely used in the territory); notes are in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1000 pataca denominations. Hong Kong dollar is freely used and accounts for more than half of the total deposits in Macau's banks.[31] In addition, Chinese yuan is also widely accepted. Two banks issue currency: the Banco Nacional Ultramarino and the Bank of China (starting from October 1995). The historical exchange rates between the pataca and the US dollar (USD) are given below.

    MOP per USD Period
    8.01 2000
    7.99 1999
    7.98 1998
    7.99 1997
    7.962 1996
    8.034 1993–95

    Trade

    In 2011, Macau's free-market economy produced total exports of US$1.119 billion (MOP 8.94 billion) and consisted mainly of clothing, textiles, footwear, toys, electronics, machinery and parts. Total imports for the same period reached US$8.926 billion (MOP 71.32 billion), and consisted mostly of raw materials and semi-manufactured goods, consumer goods (foodstuffs, beverages, tobacco), capital goods, mineral fuels and oils. Macau's primary export partner in 2011 was Hong Kong (44.6%). Other exports go to Mainland China (15.9%) and United States (7.9%). Macau import partners are Mainland China (30.4%), Hong Kong (12%), France (10.4%), Switzerland (7.5%), Italy (7.5%), Japan (6.2%), and United States (6.1%).

    In the second half of the 20th century, Macau's economy was diversified with the development of light industry, the influx of migrants from mainland China to serve as a labour force, and increased tourism. Portugal's efforts to develop economic and cultural links between Macau and Brazil and Portuguese holdings in Africa, however, were not successful. Economic ties to the European Union and Taiwan are considered important aspects of Macau's economic role as part of the People's Republic of China. Direct access to the neighbouring Zhuhai Special Economic Zone facilitates trade with mainland China. As a special administrative region, Macau functions as a free port and as a separate customs territory.

    Sectors

    Tourism and gambling

    Macau Tower at night.
    Visitor arrivals by place of residence in 2006[32]
    Place of residence No. of visitor arrivals
    (in thousands)
    Mainland China 11,985.6
    Hong Kong 6,940.7
    Taiwan (ROC) 1,437.8
    Southeast Asia 693.4 During the first three quarters of 2007, Macau registered year-on-year GDP increases of 31.4%.[15] A rapid rise in the number of mainland visitors due to China's easing of travel restrictions, increased public works expenditures, and significant investment inflows associated with the liberalisation of Macau's gaming industry drove the five-year recovery. The budget also returned to surplus after 2002 because of the surge in visitors from China and a hike in taxes on gambling profits, which generated about 70% of government revenue. The Hong Kong dollar is itself a reserve currency for the Macanese pataca, which is pegged at the official rate of around 1 Hong Kong dollar to 1.03 Macanese pataca.[20]

    Macau was a barren fishing village with a population of about 400 before the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century, during the Age of Discovery.[21] In 1535, the Portuguese traders obtained by bribing the right to anchor ships in Macau harbours and engage in trading activities. Portuguese and Chinese merchants flocked to Macau, and it quickly became an important regional trading center in Portugal's lucrative trade along three major routes: Macau-Malacca-Goa-Lisbon, Guangzhou-Macau-Nagasaki and Macau-Manila-Mexico.[22] However, with the decline of Portugal as a world power in the 17th and 18th centuries, the trading routes were challenged by other powers such as the Dutch and the British. After China ceded Hong Kong to the British in 1842, Macau's position as a major regional trading center declined further still because larger ships were drawn to the deep water port of Victoria Harbour. In an attempt to reverse the decline, from 1848 to the early 1870s Macau engaged in the infamous trade of coolies (slave labourers) as a transit port, shipping locals from southern China to Cuba, Peru, and other South American ports to work on plantations or in mines.[22]

    Fishing re-emerged as a dominant economic activity in Macau as it lost its position as a regional trading center. In the early 1920s, over 70% of Macau's 84,000 residents were engaged in fishing.[21] Meanwhile, some other businesses started to develop, such as matches, firecrackers, incense and fishing-boat building. But the most notable was the gambling business. Gambling was first legalised in the 19th century in an attempt to generate revenues for the government. The first casino monopoly concession was granted to the Tai Xing Company in 1937.[23] The company was, however, too conservative to fully exploit the economic potential of gambling. The industry saw a major breakthrough in 1962 when the government granted the Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM), a syndicate jointly formed by Hong Kong and Macau businessmen, the monopoly rights to all forms of gambling. The STDM introduced western-style games and modernised the marine transport between Macau and Hong Kong, bringing millions of gamblers from Hong Kong every year.[21]

    In the 1970s Macau also saw a rapid development in its manufacturing sector. With Macau's low-cost operating environment and its surplus quotas under the Multi Fiber Arrangement (MFA), many Hong Kong industrialists established textile and garment manufacturing bases in Macau. At its golden age in the 1980s, the manufacturing sector accounted for about 40% of Macau's GDP; textiles and garments accounted for about 90% of Macau's total visible exports.[21] However, the manufacturing sector has experienced a gradual decline since the early 1990s due to phasing out of the MFA quota system and the rising labour costs relative to mainland China and Southeast Asian countries.