Macau Opportunities

Hong Kong satisfies Macau's need for speed

by Alex Chan

Mike Tang, senior recruitment consultant, NES Overseas HK Ltd

Short turnaround times for construction projects has created openings for Hong Kong professionals

The construction industry in Macau is in the midst of an unprecedented boom. Hotels and casinos are going up all around and are fuelling a demand for experienced workers, which is likely to last for the next few years at least.

This is providing a wealth of opportunities for construction industry professionals in Hong Kong, many of whom have just the kind of expertise in building world-class hotels and infrastructure projects that is now most needed.

"Macau is looking for architects, project directors, commercial managers, quantity surveyors, electrical and mechanical engineers, and building engineers," says Mike Tang, senior recruitment consultant with NES Overseas HK Ltd. He notes that recruits from Hong Kong are particularly suited to projects in Macau which have, on average, turnaround times of between 12 and 24 months. "Hong Kong workers have the experience of getting things done at the expected pace," he adds. "You will find many people who worked on the recent KCRC rail projects, Langham Place and other high-profile hotel and residential developments have already moved to Macau."

Standard requirements

Prospective employers look for practical experience, a relevant degree and professional qualifications. A quantity surveyor, for example, should be registered with the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS) or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). In terms of personality, independent self-starters with a high level of energy and enthusiasm are likely to do best in the fast-paced Macau market.

"Hong Kong workers generally fit in quickly and adapt well after transferring, so I assume the demand will continue," Mr Tang says. Currently, about 30 per cent of the jobs handled by the NES office in Hong Kong fall into this category and the number is expected to increase.

Mainland-based workers offer Macau companies another option-and generally a cheaper one. However, it takes between three and four months to get a work visa for a mainlander, longer than it takes to process an application for someone relocating from Hong Kong. "Waiting four months when the timeframe for a project is 18 months is impractical," says Mr Tang.

Comparative benefits

These short timeframes also mean that employment contracts are often for no more than two years. However, as some companies expand, they are also increasing the number of permanent staff in order to be ready to tender for and take on future projects more easily.

Although some Macau salaries are now close to or higher than those in Hong Kong, Mr Tang advises candidates to have realistic expectations. "Salaries should be a secondary factor because the opportunity to work on high-profile projects is the key thing," he says. Nevertheless, in many cases, housing and travel allowances are on offer and Hong Kong candidates will find that the income tax rate and the cost of living is significantly lower in Macau.

Mr Tang says the initial move may be tough and will involve a period of adjustment, but professionals are sure to find job satisfaction. "In the construction industry, this comes from seeing a project taking shape and, when it is finished, knowing you had a hand in its creation," he says.

Rebuilding Macau

  • Hong Kong construction industry professionals are currently in demand in Macau
  • Experience gained from working on high-profile projects guarantees good opportunities
  • Basic requirements are a relevant degree and professional qualifications
  • People considering relocation should have realistic salary expectations
  • Housing and travel allowances are often available as part of the remuneration package

Taken from Career Times 26 May 2006
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