Macao’s total population is estimated at around 648,300. Over 90% of Macao residents are ethnic Chinese. The remaining includes Portuguese, Southeast Asian and other nationalities.
The Macao Special Administrative Region has an area of 30.5 km2, comprised of the Macao Peninsula (9.3 km2 and connected to Mainland China), Taipa (7.6 km2) and Coloane (7.6 km2) and the reclaimed area COTAI (6.0 km2). Three bridges connect Macao to Taipa (one of them is 2.5 km long, the other one is 4.5 km long and the third one is 2.2 km long).
Besides the Border Gate (Portas do Cerco) - the visitor can access Mainland China through the COTAI Frontier Post. Immigration and Customs is located in the reclaimed area between Taipa and Coloane.
Macao is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
Macao is situated in a subtropical zone, with the Asian continent to the north and a wide tropical sea to the south. In winter, Macao experiences northerly winds, cold and dry weather and low rainfall, due to a cold continental high-pressure system at medium and high latitudes. In summer, Macao is mainly subject to south-westerly winds, hot and wet weather and heavy rainfall, due to the influence of oceanic tropical weather systems. The reverse of wind directions in winter and summer, together with minimal temperature variations during the day, give Macao a marine monsoon climate.
Macao has an average annual temperature of 22.6 °C. The coolest month is January, when it averages 15.1 °C. Most years, Macao has a short cold weather period when temperatures fall below 5 °C. The average monthly temperature exceeds 22 °C during seven months of the year, indicating that Macao has a short winter but a long summer.
Macao is frequently hit by typhoons. The typhoon season starts in May and ends in September, with July and August as its peak period.
Chinese and Portuguese are the official languages, Cantonese being most widely spoken. The official languages are used in government departments in all official documents and communications. English is generally used in trade, tourism and commerce.
Macao became a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China on 20 December 1999. Its constitutional document, the Basic Law of the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR), also came into force on the same day.
The Basic Law stipulates the system to be practiced in Macao, and lays down the political and administrative framework of the MSAR for 50 years from 1999.
The systems and policies of the MSAR – including its social and economic systems; safeguards for the fundamental rights and freedoms of its residents; the executive, legislature and judiciary; and Government policies – are all based on the provisions of the Basic Law.
Under the Basic Law, the MSAR is entitled to a high degree of autonomy in all areas except defense and foreign affairs. It enjoys executive autonomy, legislative autonomy, an independent judiciary and the right to final adjudication. The MSAR maintains the status of free port and independent tariff region. It also maintains the free flow of capital and the freedom of operations of financial institutions. It may, under the name “Macao, China”, independently maintain, develop relations with and sign agreements with various countries, regions and international organizations in fields such as the economy, trade, finance, transportation, communications, tourism, culture and sports.
The Government of the Macao Special Administrative Region is the executive authority of the MSAR. The Chief Executive is the head of the Government, and general secretariats, directorates of services, departments and divisions are established in the MSAR Government.
Though a small economy, Macao pursues an open economic policy. It boasts one of the lowest tax regimes in the Asia Pacific region and sound financial stability. As a free port and a separate tariff zone, which has no foreign exchange controls, Macao is an active player in the regional economy and a vital link between the mainland Chinese and global markets.
Under the impact of economic slowdown and a series of control measures in mainland China, Macao’s gaming industry entered a period of adjustment and consolidation. Gross gaming revenue experienced a year-on-year fall since June 2014. The GDP for 2015 was 368.7 billion patacas, representing a year-on-year decrease of 20.3 percent in real terms. GDP per capita was 574,790 patacas. The economic contraction was mainly due to a 33.4 percent decrease in exports of gaming services. Other service exports saw a decline of 11.6 percent.
At the end of 2015, Macao’s fiscal reserves were 345.05 billion patacas, including a basic reserve of 131.88 billion patacas and a surplus reserve of 213.17 billion patacas. Net investment returns on the fiscal reserves stood at 2.41 billion patacas in 2015, representing an annual return rate of 0.7 percent. The aggregate fiscal reserves in 2015 grew by 40 percent over the previous year.
According to statistics provided by the Monetary Authority of Macao, as at the end of 2015, Macao’s foreign reserves were estimated at 150.78 billion patacas or US$19.75 billion, a year-on-year increase of 14.8 percent.
In May 2013, the World Trade Organization (WTO) released a trade policy review of Macao, a study that takes place every six years. The report reaffirmed the openness of Macao’s economy, with its zero-tariff policy and minimum trade and investment restrictions. It also recognized Macao’s achievements in its service-based economy over the past six years. Meanwhile the report affirmed Macao’s improvements in trade policies and business environment, including enhancement of the intellectual property rights system, further opening of the services industry (the telecom sector in particular), facilitation of trade (such as paperless customs clearance and increased transparency in public administration). This is the MSAR’s third WTO trade policy review since the previous one in 2007.
According to the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom released by the US-based Heritage Foundation, Macao’s ranking remained at the 9th place in the Asia Pacific region, and dropped from 34 to 37 globally. Its economy has been in the ranks of the “mostly free” for eight consecutive years.
Tourism and Gaming
The tourism and gaming industry, a general term for tourism, hotels, catering, retails, and gaming, is a major driving force of Macao’s economy. Gaming by itself is the largest source of direct tax in Macao.
The fast growing tourism and service industries are the main source of foreign income for Macao. The income generated from tourism has exceeded the total value of exports since 1992. Over the 1990s, the tourism industry in Macao prospered and its development accelerated following the establishment of the SAR Government.
Macao is trying to position itself as a global tourism and leisure hub. On 28 October 2015, the Committee on the Establishment of the World Tourism and Leisure Centre, which is chaired by the Chief Executive, was set up; drafting work on the masterplan for tourism development was kick-started to lay down a blueprint for socio-economic development of the MSAR in the next five years.
According to figures provided by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau and the Statistics and Census Bureau, the gaming industry’s total gross revenue in 2015 was 230.840 billion patacas (US$43.94 billion), ranking No. 1 in the world despite sluggish performance. The sector contributed 89.572 billion patacas (US$11.197 billion) in direct tax.
In 2015 Macao’s visitor arrivals stood at 30,714,628, a decrease of 2.6 percent. The number of day-trippers totalled 16,406,861, accounting for 53.4 percent of the total number of visitor arrivals, with an average stay of 1.1 day.
The MSAR Government has pressed ahead with economic cooperation with the Pan Pearl River Delta and other mainland provinces. In line with the nation’s “Belt and Road” initiative, the Government has deepened exchanges with ASEAN, the European Union and the World Trade Organization. Meanwhile it has doubled its efforts in creating a services platform for cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries to promote synergy in the convention sector, trade and commerce, as well as talent training.
In October 2003, the first Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries as well as the first World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention (WCEC) were held in Macao. All participating countries of the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries signed the Economic and Trade Cooperation Action Plan, which established the mode of cooperation between the participating countries and set up a Permanent Secretariat to the Forum in Macao in 2004. In 2013, the Action Plan for Economic and Trade Cooperation was signed, resulted in the setup of a services centre for SMEs between China and Portuguese-speaking countries, a distribution centre for foodstuffs produced in Portuguese-speaking countries, and an exhibition centre for Sino-Portuguese trade cooperation. The Vice Premier also announced eight measures for Macao, including the establishment of an information platform for bilingual Sino-Portuguese talents, cooperation between businesses and mutual exchanges.
After years of efforts, Macao’s role as a services platform for China and Portuguese-speaking countries has gained further recognition and support. Bilateral trade between China and Portuguese-speaking countries have grown from US$5.6 billion in 2002 to US$128.497 billion in 2012. Bilateral investments also grew rapidly over the same period. The website for trade cooperation and talent information between China and Portuguese-speaking countries was inaugurated in April 2015, providing online services for setting up the distribution centre for foodstuffs produced in Portuguese-speaking countries, services centre for SMEs between China and Portuguese-speaking countries and exhibition centre for Sino-Portuguese trade cooperation.
Labor and Employment
In 2015 despite the economic adjustment, the job market was unaffected, with great demand for human resources, driving up the employed population, numbers of foreign employees, and salaries, while the unemployment rate lingered at a low level of 1.8 percent.
The median monthly salary of the employed population was 15,000 patacas, up 12.8 percent over the previous year. At the end of December 2015, the number of foreign employees imported to ease local labor shortage increased by 6.6 percent compared with the figure in 2014.
The unemployment level during the fourth quarter of 2015 was 1.9 percent and underemployment rate was 0.5 percent. The labor participation rate was 73.2 percent; 79.5 percent was male and 67.1 percent was female. The total labor force was 400.600; of which 7,500 was unemployed. The total employed population was 393,100.
Historic City of Macao
Comprising over 20 ancient monuments and urban squares interwoven in the heart of the city, the historic district is collectively known as “The Historic Centre of Macao” and inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2005. It stands today as a living testimony to the integration and co-existence of eastern and western cultures over a unique chapter in history. Leisurely explore the Historic Centre of Macao, one will discover various magnificent heritages and unveil their wonderful stories!
For more information on each of the monuments, please browse Macao Government Tourism Office website.
Intangible Cultural Heritage
Macao, a city known for its Chinese and Western cultural coexistence and have been developing in this place for more than four centuries, nurturing the unique cultural landscape of Macao and its own precious intangible cultural heritage.
‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ is refer to the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills as well as the related instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces that are considered component parts of cultural heritage by communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals. Intangible cultural heritage, which includes oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.
Currently Macao features ten items of intangible cultural heritage, including Macanese Gastronomy, Macanese Theatre (inscribed through independent application by Macao), Feast of the Drunken Dragon, Yueju Opera and Herbal Tea (both inscribed through joint application of Macao, Guangdong and Hong Kong) as well as Woodwork – Macao Religious Figure Carving, Taoist Ritual Music in Macao, Cantonese Naamyam, A-Ma Belief and Customs, and Na Tcha Belief and Customs.
For more information, please visit the Macao Cultural Heritage website.