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Macau: Economy
Country Study > Economy


Gross Domestic Product (GDP): US$6.1 billion (MPtc49.2 billion) preliminary official estimate for 1999, when GDP growth was estimated at -2.9 percent. For 1999 GDP per capita was estimated at US$14,145. Per capita GPD has been steadily decreasing since 1997, when it reached a high of US$16,729.

Industry: Major activities are textile and garment manufacturing, accounting for 83.8 percent of principal domestic exports in 1999. Other major sectors are footwear, electronics, and toys. Mainland China provides most of Macau's raw materials.

Agriculture and Fishing: Traditionally, fishing and harvesting oysters has been the major form of food production. However, meat production in 1996 was 1,246 metric tons of buffaloes and 10,938 metric tons of pigs slaughtered; declining catches led to the suspension of fishing in July 1996. In the previous two years, only 1,900 metric tons (1994) and 1,600 metric tons (1995) of seafood were caught.

Labor Force: In 1999, Macau's labor force totaled around 217,000. Most (27.9 percent) workers were in public administration and personal and social services; 26.2 percent in wholesale, retail, restaurant, and hotel trades; 22 percent in manufacturing, 8.1 in construction and public works; 7.8 percent in financial activities, real estate, leasing, and commercial services; 7.4 percent in transportation and communications; and 0.6 percent in other services. Nearly 13 percent of Macau's labor force is made up of mainland construction workers and Filipino shop and restaurant employees; a presence that was the cause of demonstrations in May and July 2000.

Unemployment Rate: The official average unemployment rate was 4.3 for 1996, 3.2 for 1997, and 4.6 for 1998; unemployment jumped to 6.5 in 1999. For the January-June 2000 period, the rate reached 7 percent and, unofficially, may have been higher.

Trade: In 1999, Macau's free-market economy produced total exports of US$2.2 billion (MPtc 17.6 billion) and consisted mainly of textiles and garments, toys, electronic goods, and footwear. Total imports for the same period reached US$2 billion (MPtc 16.3 billion), and consisted mostly of raw materials and semi-manufactures, consumer goods, capital goods, and mineral fuels and oils. Total reexports were about US$317 million (MPtc 2.5 billion). In 1999 positive growth rates were seen in all three categories. Principal import trade partners in 1999 were China (35.7 percent), Hong Kong (18.1 percent), the European Union (12.9 percent), Taiwan (9.5 percent), Japan (6.7 percent), the United States (5.1 percent), and other countries (12 percent). Exports went to the United States (47 percent), the European Union (30.2 percent), China (9.2), Hong Kong (6.8 percent), and other countries (6.8 percent).

In the second half of the twentieth century, Macau's economy was diversified with the development of light industry, the influx of migrants from mainland China to serve as a labor 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 neighboring 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.

Financial Institutions: Two banks issue currency: the Banco Nacional Ultramarino and the Bank of China (starting in October 1995). 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 (Tai Fung Bank) and Banco Seng Heng (Seng Heng Bank).

Currency/Exchange Rate: US$1 = Macau patacas (MPtc, M$, or MOP) 7.9907 (August 7, 2000). One pataca divides into 100 avos. Coins are issued in 10, 20, and 50 avos and 1 and 5 patacas; notes are in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500 pataca denominations. Hong Kong currency is freely used and represents about two-thirds of the currency in circulation. The new banknotes were issued by the Bank of China and the Banco Nacional Ultramarino on December 20, 1999, and are fully convertible to foreign currencies.

Tourism: Major source of foreign exchange (US$1.9 billion in 1993); employed estimated 30 percent of labor force and contributed estimated 45 percent GNP in 1995. According to official figures for 1999, some 7.4 million persons visited Macau. Nearly 57 percent came from Hong Kong, 22 percent from mainland China, 13 percent from Taiwan, and 8 percent from other sources. Most made short, overnight visits. Overall, tourism declined in the 1990s but increased in 1999.

Gambling: Gambling has been licensed since 1850 and has always been an important source of revenue for the government. In the early 1960s, gambling provided 50 percent of Macau's official revenue. Starting in 1962, the gambling industry has been operated under a government-issued monopoly license by the Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau (Macau Tourism and Entertainment Corporation). Macau had nine casinos in the 1990s; gambling reportedly represented 20 to 25 percent of Macau's GDP. Direct taxes on gambling were 44.5 percent of total government revenue in 1998, up from 40.1 percent in 1997. In 1999, however, there was a 9.1 percent decrease in this sector. Internet gaming, with its worldwide access, was scheduled to be initiated in Macau in Summer 2000. The monopoly license of the Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau expires in 2001. Organized crime is reported to be heavily involved in gambling in Macau.

Fiscal Year: January 1-December 31.

Data as of August 7, 2000

Last Updated: August 2000

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Macau was first published in 2000. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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