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Sands new recruitment campaign pressures SMEs

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Sands China launched another recruitment campaign yesterday to feed the human resources needs for its new integrated resort on the Cotai Strip, to be opened in the coming April, prompting concerns that local small-and-medium enterprises (SME) will face further pressure from manpower shortages.
After a 2011 fair that recruited 5,000 staff, the gaming and resort operator kicked off a new two-day hiring initiative yesterday, at the Worker Sports Complex near the Border Gate, hoping to recruit some 500 staff for Sands Cotai Central which consists of a luxury hotel and shopping centre, expected to be opened in the coming April.
The company says that the two-day job fair, running Sunday and Monday between 10 am and 5 pm, is focused on the employment of local residents and features positions like security, food and beverage, hotel operations, housekeeping, limousine and car park services.
The company received over 300 applications even before the recruitment fair officially started yesterday, and Chief Operation Officer Edward Tracy expressed confidence that the campaign could bring them the additional manpower they needed.
In his opening speech to inaugurate the fair, he stressed the importance of attracting local talent to its new Cotai project: “as we offer the Cotai Strip even more of our legendary service, we look to you, the talented pool of Macau locals, to help support and strengthen our newest development with your skills, intelligence and work ethic.”
According to Sands, of the 5,000 people employed in the 2011 fair, 1,000 local workers have already been promoted to higher positions.
Sands was not immediately available yesterday for details on the first day of recruitment, including the number of people employed and salary ranges.
Some job seekers visiting the fair said they were facing pressures in daily living due to the continuous growth of inflation that outpaced the hike of salaries. They hoped to switch to a job with better pay when the labour market, driven by booming gaming industry, is in robust performance. 
The Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL) sent inspectors to the venue to supervise the situation, and to ensure that the new positions go to local workers. They even provide matching services for Sands and workers registered with the bureau. 
Although Sands denied that they intended to trigger another head-hunting tide in the labour market, the local small-and-medium sized companies (SMEs) are facing further pressure as local gaming and resort operators continue to expand.
DSAL Director Shuen Ka Hung said after visiting the fair, that he was worried about a possible exodus of workers from SMEs, that happened in recent years when major gaming operators launched recruitment fairs, driving the latest unemployment rates to record-low of 2.1 percent.  
Shuen pointed out that SMEs might be put in less competitive position as large enterprises generally offered better salaries and more attractive benefits, and would face serious pressure when labour supply continued to decline.
He promised to try his best to strike a balance in the labour market by encouraging more local people to join the workforce, as well as continuing to import labour to help alleviate labour shortages facing SMEs.
Economists expected that local labour market would continue to be tight as more resorts and casinos were lining up to launch new projects in the city, especially the major projects in the Cotai area.   
The Macau Small and Medium Enterprises Association conceded that they were put in a disadvantaged position when competing with casino and resort operators for human resources because their competitors offered better salaries and career prospects. They expected to see a high turnover rate in the SMEs as local workers continue to pursue higher salaries to cope with rising living costs. 
Another alarming sign was issued by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) last week, in a report that warned Macau would face further labour shortage as its population ages, resulting in a demographic change that would bring down the growth of its labour force.
The ILO report says since 2001 the local working-age population has increased by a yearly average of 4.2 percent, much faster that its neighbours in Hong Kong and mainland China.
The city’s working population jumped from a little over 200,000 in 2001 to reach 347,000 at the end of last year, but due to the fast aging population, Macau’s labour force will grow at a much slower pace in the next decade.  Yearly average growth is expected to drop to just 1.8 percent. The report called for suitable counteractions from the authorities, including developing fiscally sustainable social protection systems, to prepare for the changes.


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