Macau Country Director:
Dr. Bai-Xiao (Claire) Ouyang
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
City University of Macao
Youth Entrepreneurship in Macao by Elvo Sou
Entrepreneurship is becoming more and more common as a career option. In Macao where gaming and tourism is the leading industry, the government has implemented various plans to encourage youth entrepreneurship so as to provide more career opportunities to young people as well as to enhance the city's economic diversification. Established in 2013, the government's Young Entrepreneurs Aid Scheme provides an interest-free loan up to MOP300,000 (approx.USD27,500) for Macao residents between the age of 21 to 44 to start their own companies. As their companies grow through the first two years, the business owners can apply for another interest-free loan up to MOP600,000 (approx. USD75,000) from the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) Aid Scheme. While the financial support is laudable, the government was criticized for not providing adequate guidance and supervision to the young business owners supported by the Schemes. In 2015, the government established the Youth Entrepreneurship Incubation Center, providing a series of support services to the young entrepreneurs, including training, advising, mentoring, networking, and free co-working space, etc.
Doing business in a small economy like Macao comprises various challenges, including limited land area and resources, small domestic markets and client bases, difficulties in sourcing research and development capacity, and lack of highly skilled personnel and innovative technology (Baldacchino & Fairbairn, 2005). Therefore, it is not surprising that the majority of the subsidized applications in the Young Entrepreneurs Aid Scheme are from Retail and Food & Beverage businesses. To encourage more innovative technology, Macao is taking advantage of the nearby Hengqin Youth Entrepreneurship Valley, which opened in the China (Guangdong) Pilot Free Trade Zone in 2015. The Valley, which aims at cultivating 1,000 creative companies and generating 100 entrepreneurship stars by year 2020, is a platform that provides venture capital investment, incubator, and business services for young people from the Chinese Mainland and Macao to start their Internet Plus ventures in the Pearl River Delta.
Another fertile ground for cultivating entrepreneurs is college campuses. The Macao University of Science and Technology provides entrepreneurial education through its Centre for Entrepreneurship and Career Planning. The University of Macao offers rent-free co-op shops for students to run their businesses through the Campus Entrepreneurship Competition, and organizes the Macao Entrepreneurship Competition, where the winners can enter the final competition of the infamous One Million Dollar Entrepreneurship Competition at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Meanwhile, various NGOs such as the Youth Committee of the Macao Chamber of Commerce, Macao Youth Entrepreneur Association, Macao New Chinese Youth Association and Macao Youth Federation are also actively involved in promoting youth entrepreneurship in Macao.
Youth entrepreneurship is certainly catching on in Macao. Various initiatives have been put in place in recent years to help young people start their businesses. Yet entrepreneurship in a small economy is likely to be different from that in a large state. It will be interesting to see the evolution and results of the entrepreneurial efforts in Macao.
Youth Employment and Social Development in Macau by Elvo Sou
Macau has gone through an unprecedented decade of economic growth. Human resource development has become strategically important to sustain our social development. Due to its small size and population, Macau faces a number of challenges.
Similar to other small states and territories, Macau has an ecology of its own. The economy is often characterized by limited diversification and high sensitivity to the changes in the global economy. The decrease of our gaming revenue in the past year due to the slowing economic growth and anti-corruption initiatives in China is an example. In terms of the labor market, small states and territories have the need for the similar specializations as larger ones, but usually cannot produce all these specializations or fully populate them. They usually rely on expatriates to fill the gap in the labor market. For many specialized occupations, in addition, the demand is often not large enough to employ a sizeable pool of highly trained personnel. As a result, specialists frequently find themselves handling both specialist and non-specialist duties, and employees often wear several hats at the same time. Occupational identity takes on a different definition, with the self usually comprised of a smaller "hard core" and a larger "flexible periphery"- a phenomenon known as "multi-functionality" (Sultana, 2006).
This does not mean that specialists are not needed. In fact, the expectation of professionalism is rising in Macau as our economy advances. But given the nature of smallness, the demand for certain specialists can become easily saturated, resulting in redundant talents and people who need transferrable skills to embark on other careers. In addition, specialists often need to give up their specializations and develop the skill-sets of generalists if they want to climb the career ladder (Baldacchino, 1995). Therefore, the interplay of specialization and generalization is a crucial aspect of career development in Macau. "Adaptable specialization" is recommended, which allows youth to cope with the ever-changing social development in Macau.
Career counseling and development for youth is a major focus in the recent Macau Youth Policy 2012-2020. Much effort has been paid in guiding high school students to choose their college majors, so as to help students find their best person-environment fit in their career development. While this effort is admirable, it is insufficient for several reasons. First, students usually have a limited understanding of what the college majors really entail when they make their decisions. It is not uncommon to see students find themselves uncomfortable with their chosen majors after they enter university. They may change their majors, or get through their studies but then embark on a completely different career after they graduate from college. Secondly, certain majors may not directly translate into occupations in Macau, leaving students with a diffused sense of vocational identity. Thirdly, even when the students do choose suitable majors which can turn into available occupations, their careers in the next 40 years are bound to include transitions and changes. Macau youth need to develop career adaptability.
Taken together, there are several implications for youth employment and career development in Macau.