In 1998, Macau's labor force stood at 281,117 people, with an unemployment rate of around 6.9 percent. Macau's economy experienced 2 difficult years in 1997 and 1998, when the unemployment rate was on the rise. However, since the beginning of the economic recovery in 1999 and 2000, there has been some improvement in the labor market. Wages are generally below those in neighboring Hong Kong, but much higher than in China, although there is no regulation of minimum wages or unemployment compensations.
The Macau government encourages women to work, and women made up around 40 percent of the workforce in 1999. In 1984 child labor was banned in Macau, but the law has never been strongly enforced.
Trade unions are allowed in Macau, within the framework of its labor law and other regulations. Labor actions, such as strikes, slow downs, and other protests, are very rare in Macau.