Macau Special Administrative Region




Macau is located in Southeast Asia, approximately 60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Hong Kong, bordering China. Made up of Macau city and the islands of Taipa and Coloane, Macau has a land area of 21 square kilometers (8.3 square miles). Comparatively, the territory of Macau is 4 times smaller than the Manhattan area of New York City. Macau is joined to the Chinese province of Guangdong by a narrow land corridor. Because of land reclamation efforts, Macau has enlarged its territory by 50 percent since 1912.


The population of Macau, which is virtually all urban-based, was estimated at 445,594 in July 2000. In 2000, the birth rate stood at 12.54 per 1,000 and this low level is mainly attributed to the effect of urbanization. The death rate stood at 3.64 per 1,000. The estimated population growth rate is 1.83 percent, although unofficial estimates show higher figures due to a high net migration rate, which has been estimated at 9.41 migrants per 1,000. Macau has one of the highest population densities in the world, standing at a level of around 21,218 people per square kilometer (or 54,954 per square mile).

The Macau population represents 2 major ethnic groups, with ethnic Chinese making up almost 95 percent of the population, and Macanese (mixed Portuguese and Asian ancestry) and other ethnic groups making up the remaining 5 percent. Around 100,000 inhabitants of Macau hold Portuguese passports that give them the right to settle in Portugal. Approximately 23 percent of the population is below the age of 15, and just 8 percent of the population is older than 65. The current ethnic structure was formed in the 19th century and remains practically unchanged. Buddhism is the primary religion, with 50 percent of the population practicing; Roman Catholicism follows with 15 percent, and the remainder is made up of numerous other faiths.

The government is keen to limit the inflow of illegal immigrants from China. Between 20 and 25 illegal immigrants are deported daily, although foreigners may legally buy residential permits for US$250,000. New chronic diseases such as AIDS are also of great concern to the Macau government, since the country is a busy tourist destination.



Macau has a well-established manufacturing sector that plays an important economic role. Manufacturing contributes 40 percent of the GDP, providing employment to 87,141 people or 31 percent of the workforce (1998). In the 1960s and 1970s, Macau attracted investment and technologies to its manufacturing industry (mainly textiles, clothing, toys, and electronics) through low cost and efficiency, producing a range of exports to Europe and the United States. However, Macau fell behind Hong Kong and Singapore in attracting electronic assembling and computer technologies in the 1980s and 1990s. Since the early 1990s, however, the manufacturing sector's share in the GDP has been steadily declining because of strong competition from China's Special Economic zone of Zhuhai. The manufacturing sector is dominated by small- and medium-size enterprises, which specialize in small-volume and high-quality garments, toys, leather goods, and artificial flowers. It also produces optical goods, electronics, and machinery.

Manufacturing was negatively affected by the 1997 Asian financial crisis. However, Macau escaped a large-scale recession because the local business community switched quickly between markets and products, and because most of the goods were produced by small private enterprises for export to the United States, Europe, and East Asia. Macau benefited from the existence of U.S.-imposed quotas for goods made in China. Such restrictions can provide an initiative for re-export of goods manufactured in China and labeled as Macau-made products. During recent years, Macau reportedly became heavily involved in producing pirated computer software, CDROMs, and DVDs, which have been distributed in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and even in the United States.



Tourism is the most important sector of Macau economy, providing direct employment (such as in hotels and restaurants) for 28 percent of the labor force or 78,708 people. Macau has long been a tourist destination for business people and other travelers due to its famous gambling facilities. Macau promotes itself as a "dream come true," offering 24-hour gambling services, a multicultural environment, exotic festivals, and tax-free shopping (most items are 50 percent cheaper than in Hong Kong). According to the national authorities, Macau had a total room capacity of 8,886 in 1999, although most of the hotels report an occupancy rate below 60 percent. Most visitors come for a short stay, arriving from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and Japan. The number of tourists visiting the territory rose steadily throughout the 1980s and 1990s, reaching a peak in 1996 with 8.1 million tourists. There was, however, a sharp decline of around 15 percent in 1997 and a further 3 percent in 1998, because of economic turmoil in the region and the outbreak of gangster-style killings and bombings on Macau's streets. In 1999 and 2000, tourism was helped by the economic recovery in Hong Kong and Taiwan.


Gambling, together with tourism, is one of the most important sectors of Macau's economy. Macau's casinos and its facilities for horse and greyhound racing have attracted visitors to the region for decades. The government has benefited from the gambling industry by imposing direct taxes, which accounted for 44 percent of its revenue in 1999. However, the dark side of the industry is gambling addiction and criminal activities. In fact, the outbreak of violence in hotels, restaurants, and casinos in 1997 and 1998 was largely attributed to feuds between powerful organized crime syndicates.


Macau has a small but vibrant financial services sector, which provided employment for 8 percent of the labor force, or 22,488 people, in 1999. It is built around banking, insurance, and business services. The banking sector was opened for international competition in 1992, and there were 9 local and 13 foreign incorporated banks in 1998. The largest banks are Banco Comercial Portugues and Bank of China. The 1997 Asian financial crisis hurt the financial services sector, although there were no major bank collapses or bankruptcies.


The retail sector is well-established in Macau, providing inexpensive products to the local population and foreign tourists. Large supermarkets are complemented by thousands of small retail shops where tourists and local consumers can buy a wide variety of duty-free products much cheaper than in Hong Kong. Thousands of small- and medium-size restaurants serve exotic Asian cuisine, attracting gourmands (sophisticated diners) from across the region.


Macau has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Macau. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, December 2000.

International Financial Statistics Yearbook, 1999. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 2000.

Macau Economic Services. <> .Accessed February 2001.

Macau Statistics and Census Service. <> .Accessed February 2001.

Macau Statistics and Census Service, Macau. Yearbook of Statistics. Macau Special Administrative Region, People's Republic of China: DSEC, 1995.

Macau Trade and Investment Promotion Institute. <> . Accessed February 2001.

Monetary Authority of Macau. <> .Accessed February 2001.

Porter, Jonathan. Macau, The Imaginary City: Culture and Society, 1557 to the Present . New Perspectives in Asian Studies. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000: Macau. <> . Accessed February 2001.

—Rafis Abazov




Pataca (MOP). One Macau pataca equals 100 avos. Coins include denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 avos, as well as MOP1 and MOP5. Paper currency comes in denominations of MOP5, 10, 50, 100, and 500.


Textiles, clothing, toys, electronics, cement, footwear, machinery.


Raw materials, foodstuffs, capital goods, mineral fuel, consumer goods.


US$7.65 billion (1999 est).


Exports: US$1.7 billion (1999 est.). Imports: US$1.5 billion (1999 est.).

User Contributions:

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