The Macau government is tightening the renewal process on working visas for non-resident casino executives, reportedly in a bid to have a larger number of local workers promoted to managerial roles.
The city’s Human Resources Office – in charge of handling requests to import labour – confirmed the policy to local Portuguese-language newspaper Jornal Tribuna de Macau.
“In assessing requests by the six casino operators – and bearing in mind that these have been in activity [in Macau] for several years – we consider these firms already present enough conditions to promote local workers [into higher positions],” the newspaper quoted the bureau as saying.
The Human Resources Office added that if “there are local workers that can fulfil the necessary conditions to perform managerial roles”, it would then “deny requests for working visa renewals” for expatriate casino executives.
The office added it would assess such questions in an “impartial and fair” way and would take into account government guidelines, Macau’s economic development, the situation of labour demand and supply, and information related to the companies applying to import such labour.
The goal of the strategy was to “free up more [managerial] positions for local workers”, said the newspaper, quoting the Human Resources Office.
Brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd had mentioned in a note on Monday the issue of casino operators facing difficulties in renewing working visas – known in Macau as ‘blue cards’ – for non-resident casino executives. The brokerage said its commentary was the result of its discussions with some operators.
“Blue card renewal applications for management level (i.e., managers, senior managers, directors, executive directors, etc.) are becoming more difficult,” analysts Vitaly Umansky, Simon Zhang and Clifford Kurz wrote at the time.
They added: “Several senior managers at various operators have noted this difficulty as the Macau government is pushing for more locals to be promoted into managerial roles. The worry with respect to this issue is less about cost escalations (which we see as having been moderate), but with respect to quality and experience of managers.”
According to Sanford Bernstein’s Monday note, Macau locals account for “well over 80 percent of manager-and-above positions, 77 percent of all workers at the casino properties, and 96 percent of casino-specific employees.”
The Macau government does not authorise migrant workers to take up casino dealer positions.
Imported workers are officially regarded in Macau as only complementary to local labour. During the 2008 international financial crisis – which hit several of the city’s casino operators – the government at the time pushed Macau employers to lay off imported workers before releasing any local workers.
Several casino labour groups in Macau have held protests demanding the government introduce policies ensuring casino operators offer more promotion opportunities to local workers.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China