Economy of Macau

Economy of Macau

Currency pataca (MOP)
calendar year
Trade organisations
GDP US$51.8 billion (413.5 billion patacas, 2013)[1]
GDP rank 82nd (nominal) /
94th (PPP)
GDP growth
11.9% (2013), -26.4% (Q2 2015 year-on-year)
GDP per capita
US$88,700 (2013 est.)
GDP by sector
services: 94.1%, industry: 5.9% (2014 est.)
6% (2014 est.)
Population below poverty line
no data
Labour force
367,800 (2013 est.)
Labour force by occupation
wholesale and retail trade 13.3%, gambling 13.3%, restaurants and hotels 12.7%, construction 8.7%, public sector 6.7%, transport and communications 5.5%, manufacturing 4.3%, financial services 2.4%, other services and agriculture 33.2% (2010 est.)
Unemployment 1.9% (2013 est.)
Main industries
tourism, gambling, clothing, textiles, electronics, footwear, toys
Exports $1.137 billion (2013 est.)
Export goods
clothing, textiles, footwear, toys, electronics, machinery and parts
Main export partners
 Hong Kong 53.4%
 Mainland China 17.6%
 United States 4% (2014 est.)[2]
Imports $10.13 billion (2013 est.)
Import goods
raw materials and semi-manufactured goods, consumer goods (foodstuffs, beverages, tobacco), capital goods, mineral fuels and oils
Main import partners
 Mainland China 53.8%
 Hong Kong 21.4%
 France 14.2%
 Japan 9.7%
 United States 8.3%
 Germany 4.1% (2013 est.)[3]
Public finances
$0 (2013)
Revenues $16.95 billion (2012 est.)
Expenses $6.934 billion (2012 est.)
Main data source: CIA World Fact Book
All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars.

The economy of Macau has remained one of the 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.[4] Macau is a full Member of the World Trade Organization.[5] Public Security has greatly improved after handover to People's Republic of China.[6] 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.[7] 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.

During the first three quarters of 2007, Macau registered year-on-year GDP increases of 31.4%.[4] 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.[8]


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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[10]

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.[9] 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.[11] 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.[9]

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.[9] 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[12]
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.[13]

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.[14][15] 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.[16] 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).[17]

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.[18]

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.[19] 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


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%).

Macau is also the largest import partner of Sudan (18.1%).[20]

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.


Tourism and gambling

Macau Tower at night.
Visitor arrivals by place of residence in 2006[21]
Place of residenceNo. of visitor arrivals
(in thousands)
Mainland China11,985.6
Hong Kong6,940.7
Taiwan (ROC)1,437.8
Southeast Asia693.4

Tourism is the backbone of Macau's economy, and much of it geared towards gambling, which was legalised in the 19th century and has since been the linchpin of the economy and an important source of revenue for the government. From 1962, the gambling industry operated under a government-issued monopoly licence by Stanley Ho's Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau (STDM), which replaced the Tai Heng Entertainment Corporation that had held a gaming monopoly for the previous 24 years.[11] In the 1990s Macau had nine casinos and gambling reportedly represented 20 to 25% of Macau's GDP. The monopoly ended in 2001 when the gaming industry was liberalised and several casino operators from Las Vegas entered the market. These new operators include Las Vegas Sands, which opened Sands Macao , the largest casino in the world as measured by total number of table games, in 2004[22][23] and Venetian Macau in 2007; Wynn Resorts, which opened Wynn Macau in 2006; and MGM Mirage, which opened MGM Grand Macau in 2007.

In addition, other casino owners, including Australian Crown Casino and Hong Kong Galaxy Entertainment Group have also opened several hotel casinos in Macau. As a result of the surge in number of casinos and construction from other new casino entrants, Macau's economy has been growing rapidly in recent years. Gaming revenues from Macau's casinos are now greater than those of Las Vegas Strip,[24] making Macau the highest-volume gambling center in the world.[25] Numerous other hotel casinos, including Galaxy Cotai Megaresort and Ponte 16, are also to be opened in near future.

The interior of The Venetian Macao

Due to the opening of the new hotel casinos and China's easing of travel restrictions, there has been a rapid rise in the number of mainland visitors. From 9.1 million visitors in 2000, arrivals to Macau has grown to 18.7 million visitors in 2005 and 22 million visitors in 2006, with over 50% of the arrivals coming from mainland China and another 30% from Hong Kong.[21] Macau is expected to receive between 24 and 25 million visitors in 2007.[26] Macau also received the Future Award 2007, voted by 26,000 German travel trade members of GoAsia, for being regarded as the most promising future tourism destination in Asia.[27] Macau is currently rated as one of the world's top tourism destinations by the World Tourism Organisation.[28]


Macau's manufacturing industries emerged in the first few decades of the 20th century, which mainly consisted of junk building, factories for matches, firecrackers and incense. Modern industries, however, did not take off until the 1970s when the textiles and garments industry was rising rapidly, while other light industries such as plastics, electronics, toys, and artificial flowers also experienced respectable growth. Textiles and garments further increased its dominance in the manufacturing sector towards the end of the 1980s.

Much of Macau's textile industry has moved to the mainland as the Multi-Fiber Agreement is phased out. The territory has relied more on gambling and tourism-related services to generate growth.


Macau is an offshore financial centre, a tax haven, and a free port with no foreign exchange control regimes.[29] [30][31] The offshore finance business is regulated and supervised by the Monetary Authority of Macao,[32] while the regulation and supervision of the offshore non-finance business is mainly controlled by the Macau Trade and Investment Promotion Institute.[33] In 2007, Moody's Investors Service upgraded Macau's foreign and local currency government issuer ratings to 'Aa3' from 'A1', citing its government's solid finances as a large net creditor. The rating agency also upgraded Macau's foreign currency bank deposit ceiling to 'Aa3' from 'A1'.[34]

There are twenty other licensed banks, sixteen of which are foreign. Macau has five of the top 500 commercial banks in Asia, including Banco Tai Fung and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.


Ponte 16 under construction

In 2014, the construction sectors in Macau engaged 45,368 people. The value of construction was MOP78.15 billion, in which MOP66.88 billion belong to the private sectors. The intermediate consumption was MOP61.03 billion and labor cost was MOP11.35 billion.[35]

Transportation companies

Air Macau, the island's airline, is headquartered in Macau.[36]


Macau has reportedly the highest "media density" in the world - nine Chinese-language dailies, three Portuguese-language dailies, two English-language dailies and about half a dozen Chinese-language weeklies and one Portuguese-language weekly. About two dozen newspapers from Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan and the Philippines are shipped to Macau every early morning.

Ignite Media Group is the enclave's most dominant media company.

Economic diversification

The large role of gaming and tourism underscores a degree of risk for Macau’s economy. Because the economy is so reliant on tourism and gambling for its well-being, if the flow of tourists slows, it could come as a shock to the small market. The push for diversification came in the closing years of Portuguese administration, under Governor General Vasco Rocha Vieira, and has continued to the present, under Chief Executive Edmund Ho. The government is seeking foreign investment as a means of economic diversification as well. Much of the foreign investment into Macau, however, has gone into the gaming sector after the end of the monopoly in 2001. Otherwise, foreign companies have entered into the mobile phone market and internet services after telecommunications market liberalisation in 2001.


Electricity – production: 1.893 billion kWh (2004)
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (1998)
Electricity – consumption: 1.899 billion kWh (2004)
Electricity – exports: 0 kWh (2004)
Electricity – imports: 153.3 million kWh (2004)

See also


  1. "Macau's GDP posts growth of 11.9 pct in 2013". Macauhub English.
  2. "Export Partners of Macau". CIA World Factbook. 2012. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
  3. "Import Partners of Macau". CIA World Factbook. 2012. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
  4. 1 2 "Economic statistics from Monetary Authority of Macao". AMCM. Retrieved 23 December 2007.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Chan, S. S. (2000). The Macau Economy. Macau: Publications Centre, University of Macau. ISBN 99937-26-03-6.
  10. 1 2 Fung, Bong Yin (1999). Macau: a General Introduction (in Chinese). Hong Kong: Joint Publishing (H.K.) Co. Ltd. ISBN 962-04-1642-2.
  11. 1 2 Macau Yearbook 2007. Government Information Bureau of the Macau SAR. 2007. ISBN 978-99937-56-09-5.
  12. "DSEC – for the current data of employed population by occupation". DSEC. Archived from the original on 24 November 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2007.
  13. "DSEC – for the current data of unemployment rate and labor force participation rate". DSEC. Retrieved 27 December 2007.
  14. "DSEC – for data on the principal statistical indicators". DSEC. Retrieved 27 December 2007.
  15. "DSEC – for the current data of labor force and employed population". DSEC. Retrieved 27 December 2007.
  16. "Rare Macau protest turns violent". BBC News – Business. 1 May 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2007.
  17. "Profile of China: The problems behind Macau's prosperity" (in Chinese). BBC Chinese. 31 December 2007. Retrieved 15 January 2008.
  18. "The history of pataca". Monetary Authority of Macao. Retrieved 4 January 2008.
  19. Chan, 39
  20. "The World Factbook".
  21. 1 2 "DSEC – for the current data of visitor arrivals by place of residence". DSEC. Retrieved 8 January 2008.
  22. "Sands Macao-is the largest casino in the world". Ready Bet Go. Archived from the original on 15 May 2007. Retrieved 24 August 2006.
  23. Richard N. Velotta and Jeff Simpson. "Las Vegas gaming operations are building Chinese resort town". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 2 November 2006.
  24. "Macau, a tiny special administrative region of China, appears to have overtaken the famous Las Vegas Strip as the world's top gambling destination". BBC News – Business. 25 October 2006. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
  25. David Barboza. "Asian Rival Moves Past Las Vegas". New York Times. Archived from the original on 27 January 2007. Retrieved 24 January 2007.
  26. "Macau expected to receive between 24 and 25 million tourists in 2007". MacauHub. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 15 March 2007.
  27. Theodore Koumelis. "German travel trade give most promising destination award to Macau". Travel Daily News. Retrieved 15 March 2007.
  28. World's Top Tourism Destinations "World's Top Tourism Destinations (absolute no.) – Top 25" Check |url= value (help) (PDF). The Organisation of World Tourism. Retrieved 15 November 2007.
  29. Luis Pereira. "Offshore Operation in Macao". Macau Business. Retrieved 5 September 2007.
  30. Errico and Musalem (1999). "Countries, Territories, and Jurisdictions with Offshore Financial Centers". IMF. Retrieved 5 September 2006.
  31. "Macau Currency". Retrieved 2 January 2008.
  32. Monetary Authority of Macao "The homepage of Monetary Authority of Macao" Check |url= value (help). The Monetary Authority of Macao, the Govt. of Macau SAR. Retrieved 15 November 2007.
  33. IPIM "The Macau Trade and Investment Promotion Institute" Check |url= value (help). The Macau Trade and Investment Promotion Institute, the Govt. of Macau SAR. Retrieved 15 November 2007.
  34. Hemscott "the web site of Hemscott and Empowering Inverstors" Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 15 November 2007.
  35. MACAULINK. "Macau News - Macau construction sector boots local economy". Macau News.
  36. "Contact Us Service." Air Macau. Retrieved on 23 September 2009.

Further reading

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