MACAU — Macau, one of the wealthiest places in the world, possesses a globally huge reputation thanks to its gaming industry. But, underneath all the bells and whistles, bright lights and multi-million dollar casinos, lies the hard working Macau residents that live in poverty. The Macau poverty rate may be unknown to the public, but poverty is extremely prevalent in the territory.
Since the opening of its gaming industry in 2001, Macau has heavily relied on the revenue of the casino taxes. The gaming taxes earned, from the world’s largest gaming center, accounts for more than 76 percent of the government’s revenue.
Yet, with an anti-corruption campaign in place, the gaming sector has taken a huge blow, resulting in an inflation-adjusted GDP. In 2016, Macau’s GDP was estimated at $63.22 billion, a large decrease from $83.33 billion in 2014. Also, in 2016, unemployment was reported at 1.9 percent while those living below the poverty line was unknown.
Despite that Macau has no official poverty line, there exists a large gap between the poor and rich. The government figure of those in poverty is reported at 2.3 percent, but this percentage is based solely on income and doesn’t include the high cost of living and low wages workers earn.
In accounting for these factors, the Macau poverty rate is closer to 10 percent with an additional 7 percent struggling to meet basic food needs.
Macau politician, José Pereira Coutinho noted that “Only the rich get heard by the government, while the poor are ignored and suffer. All the land is reserved for casinos, and instead of building housing for the poor, the government is giving out more allocations for gaming tables.”
In regards to the government’s efforts, citizens are given a single check of 9,000 patacas each year to keep quiet about politics, which is not enough to provide long-lasting relief. Additionally, rundown housing, such as the Iao Hon district, host about a third of the population who earn their salaries from casinos and have yet to see improvements to their housing districts.
Still, the low wages earned from the luxurious casinos are nowhere near enough for a sustainable living, and such low funds consequently force residents to find cheaper living in China (where they can also find better housing).
Although the Macau poverty rate can only be estimated from charity and government reports, there is no question that poverty in Macau exists. The territory may have a reputation for being one of the wealthiest places in the world, but the government must find a solution to create better housing instead of continuing to build extravagant casinos. There’s also the need to increase the wages of casino workers in order for the poverty rate to decrease and the GDP to recover.
– Amira Wynn