Junket and Gaming Closures See Macau’s Unemployment Increase

The dismantlement of mass junket operations in Macau has had an expected consequence – an increase in overall unemployment. In the first months of the junket clampdown, former employees of those businesses reported that they had experienced a steep decline in their finances and were struggling to adapt and find new jobs. This is not surprising, as junkets accounted for a hefty number of the total workforce in the Special Administrative Region.

New Data In, Unemployment Numbers Up

Now, the Statistics and Census Service has put the unemployment rates of residents for the period between May and July 2022 at 5.4% in the latest surveyed period. This is not necessarily due to the dismantlement of junket operations, with a more pressing worry being the immediate restrictions to Macau casinos that are put in place to fight the spread of COVID-19. Some 377,000 workers are presently in Macau and have different positions across the city’s businesses.

Expectedly, employment in gaming and junket activities, hotels, restaurants, and other leisurely businesses saw a decline. Meanwhile, unemployed individuals hit 15,600 over the latest surveyed period. Most of these newly unemployed workers though used to work in the junket or gaming sectors. There has also been an increase in underemployed workers, who have now reached 50,600 of the total workforce.

There is still a lack of full-scale recovery that would allow tourism to pick up. However, the Macao Government Tourism Office has already restarted promoting the SAR to mainlanders in China. In fact, the Saturday visitation reached 18,620, the highest it has been since August 3 when travel restrictions from the nearby Guangdong province were finally lifted.

Tourism Rebounds as Concessionaires Face More Pressure

Between August 20 and August 26, Macau saw as many as 103,162 tourists entering the SAR, with travel picking up. Macau is also on a mission to transform itself from a gambling hub (at least for Chinese citizens) to one that attracts international tourists and gamblers. The SAR is increasingly looking to pull away from asking Chinese visitors to spend their money on games of chance.

But then again, concessionaires would need to still reach a minimum revenue threshold as outlined by the administration. While skilled laborers may be readily available on the market, Macau’s six concessionaires will have to come up with a way to attract more tourists while navigating the vagaries of Beijing, which is determined to uphold a zero-COVID-19 policy. The “Macau Week” promotion on the mainland should help bring more tourists happily, but Macau should also tread carefully for the aforementioned reasons.

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