Mass Exodus of Expats from Macau

Macau Expats 11-08
Macau Expats 11-08

Macau Business Magazine has a chilling front page article in their December 2008 issue called “You’re Fired – Expat Exodus” about the mass exodus of Expats working in Macau. You can read the original article at:

Overview from Macau Business Magazine
The wave of lay-offs that has hit the expat community has left a bad taste in the mouth. The whiff of betrayal is in the air and for many, there will be no coming back.


  • When a bluecard is withdrawn (making it illegal for expats to work in Macau) they have 10 days to exit.
  • The first big cuts happened in early November 2008 on the Cotai Strip. There was mass panic among expats. In mid November the Venetian laid off 11,000 constructions workers as it halted work on the Cotai strip. In late November or early December many entertainers at the Venetian were let go. Many of these workers had already been here for a couple years and had relocated from their home countries.
  • There are rumors of “ill feeling” between LVS and the Macau Government. Some feel the world economy is being used as an excuse to purge Macau of expats.
  • The darkest “conspiracy theory” hints that the Macau Government is a slow moving vulture with it’s eye on the Cotai Strip, Adelson and the Venetian.
  • Conservative Macau lawmakers are getting high praise for returning jobs to local Macanese, while expats cannot understand where they are going to get local employees with the necessary skills and experience to replace their jobs.
  • Rent prices, local supermarkets and shop prices skyrocketed with the mass influx of expats with large disposable incomes. The local Macanese hope that with the exodus of expats the prices will begin to lower again.
  • It is rumored that no bluecards will be renewed for casino floor managers so all positions will be held by local Macanese within the year.
  • Businesses are preferring to hire local Macanese to stay in good graces with the government.
  • From the article: “During Macau’s boom we reached out for their help but when crisis struck, they were first for the chop. Conservative lawmakers want their heads and guaranteed jobs for locals. The clamour to sack foreign workers can verge on the xenophobic.”
  • Quote from a local: ““I am very happy to see so many foreigners going home.”
  • Official statistics from June show there are 98,505 non-resident workers in Macau – 13,713 of them in the construction sector.
  • As of October 3, 2008 new applications to hire non-local workers in the construction sector will not be accepted.
  • “Changing the rules when the game has already started is not pretty”
  • The growth in foreign investment in Macau was “too fast” and  “unhealthy”

The Chinese government has increased it’s visa restrictions for local Chinese over the border visiting Macau. I have heard two takes on this. I have heard that it’s part of the Chinese government making sure it’s economy doesn’t slip into Macau hands. I have also heard it’s part of throttling the growth in Macau to keep it under control. The growth here is staggering and construction is immense. Most say the infrastructure has not had a chance to catch up with development. The restrictions by the Chinese government may well be part of a long term vision to ensure stability from a long term approach.

I have been told that while for a Western the phrase “long term” might mean 5 years; to the Chinese that may mean 20 years. So planning long term is indeed long term.

So what do I think? I’m an expat, it’s not my country. It’s up to Macau and their government to do what’s best for Macau. I can accept that.

10 thoughts on “Mass Exodus of Expats from Macau

  1. Hello, Interesting article. I am looking to move to Macau in the near future to be with my fiancee who is living and working there now. She is a Filipino citizen working on one of the big hotel construction projects. I am a computer scientist with lots of skills and experience but I am concerned I wont be able to find a job due to the restrictions on hiring foreigners. Any advice? Thanks.

    Bob Bozsa
    Rockville, Maryland USA

  2. Hi Bob,
    Well the work climate in Macau is much better now than when this article came out – but it’s still really tough for people that just land in Macau and need to find work for a blue card. The exception is hotel hospitality and nannies from Philippines and Indonesia – they seem to always find a job.

    I do have a friend who does freelance computer work under the table but that’s a pretty edgy deal so won’t introduce you to him.

    Macau is very small so you’d be surprised how networking really works here. There is a business networking group that meets in Macau and Hong Kong once a month – if you email me I can try to dig up that info.

    Of course, I could hire you as my maid for a blue card. Do you know how to make nachos? (Just kidding – don’t hit me).

    I would check out Wynn, City of Dreams and Venetian.

  3. Hey,

    Just stumbled onto your blog. Very informative, looks bleak. But I hope it’s gotten better now than before. I’m a Canadian who is looking to experience the world and build a career at the same time. I thought Macau would be great seeing as I have a large interest in the IT Gaming sector.

    But I may be going in blind, don’t know anyone there really. How is life for asians who know little cantonese and alot of english?

  4. I love working and living in Macau. It’s a nice safe place to get a lot of work done. This article was back from November/December 2008 right after the big recession. Things are better now. The government is throttling Macau’s growth so things don’t get out of hand, and they have put in quotas so businesses have to employee locals. That’s all good for Macau’s long term growth – nothing bad about all that.

    I would suggest contacting the large casino companies – I’m sorry I don’t have a resource for that – but some of the companies here are the Sands Venetian, City of Dreams, Wynn, MGM, Star World and of course Stanley Ho’s different operations.

  5. Wanted to add that the South China Morning Post has a classified jobs section with many postings for IT jobs.

    I find the expat community in Macau to be very nice. I’ve lived here for two years now. Don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve been told Macau is more hospitable to raising a family than Hong Kong, ie: a better place to settle down. I think Macau lacks the diversity of Hong Kong in different things to do – but it’s a very safe place.

  6. Thanks for the tip! Do you think we could speak off the blog? Maybe MSN or something.

  7. Hi, I sent resumes to most jobs offered in the internet which I think I qualified, but there were no responses. I am a Filipino, is Macau open for foreign workers> thanks so much =)

  8. Funny as it sounds but I can almost get away as an expat. I was born in Macau but moved to New Zealand when I was 7, so I’m pretty much a Banana – Yellow on the outside but white on the inside.

    My Chinese reading and writing skills are pretty non-existent – maybe for a few characters here and there. As for my Cantonese lingo; I can still manage but will have trouble holding a fast conversation.

    Went back last Dec to sort to renew my old documents and generally enjoyed my stay and even had flicker of aspiration to live here. But thing is, coming from a Westernized upbringing it’s kinda hard go back to something you’re not quite use to.

    Got any advice? How’s is the expact community or am I better off getting a job in H.K?

  9. Well I guess it depends on the industry you’re in. I’ve lived in Macau for two and a half years and I love it. The Mass Exodus of Expats from Macau as back in late 2008 when the world financial crisis hit. Things are back on track now. Of course anything can happen at any time – it’s Macau with the Chinese government at it’s back door. 🙂

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