Authors: Choe, J. and O' Regan, M.

Start date: 15 August 2015

Place of Publication: Chiang Mai, Thailand

As ‘Las Vegas of the East”, Macau’s has achieved rapid economic growth through its popularity as a tourism destination. As Macau’s casino’s move to attract the premium mass markets over ‘high rollers,’ the growth and intensity of visitor numbers has raised questions as to the sustainable development of tourism. At only 29 sq km, and a resident population of 600,000; visitor numbers rose to 30m in 2013.Given the low unemployment rate of 1.7%, Macao has attracted the high number of foreign workers. In the last government statistics for the period November 2014 to January 2015, Macau’s total labor force reached 404,500, with total employment at 397,800, while 6,700 people were unemployed. According to the Human Resources Office (GRH), the number of non-resident workers stood at 172,062 at the end of January 2015, with 64.8 percent (111,523) mainlanders and 21,977 Filipinos. Approximately 50% of Filipinos attained a skilled person’s visa, with the remaining primarily on a domestic worker visa.

There is no or little study about this Filipino workers’ quality of life (QOL) in Macao; within the context of their ethnicity and rapid tourism development. The purposes of this study are: (1) collect qualitative data to discuss underlying concepts (2) to explore how Filipinos in Macau perceive QO) (3) to critically analyze their interpretation and understanding of QOL (4), and understand how Filipinos cope with the unexpected problems that had arisen during an era of unparalleled tourism growth.

We conducted twelve in-depth interviews with Filipino residents in January and February, 2015. Most of them are low-income level workers; and moved to Macao for job opportunities. They don’t perceive material well-being as an important QOL indicator but consider love, happiness and family as important. They feel that they can’t be fully happy because they don’t live with their family, but are satisfied that they can financially support their families in the Philippines. The few who are able to bring their family to Macao expressed higher satisfaction and QOL. They all agreed Macao offers job opportunities, safety and infrastructure.

However, the informants strongly indicate that there is no place like home, and if they had a choice they would live in Philippines. They believe there is ‘no sense of community’ in Macao; and do not feel accepted, respected culturally; despite some learning Cantonese. They are also not satisfied with their long work hours; and constraints such as not being able to go to church. Many argue they do not get time off; which restricts leisure opportunities.

This study will make a conceptual contribution by providing a definition of QOL by filling the gaps in existing research on this topic by using a bottom-up approach. It identifies the need for QOL indicators to monitor tourism development and impacts of tourism on ethnic groups and communities drawn across borders in search of economic opportunities. We recommend future planning incorporate more ‘subjective’ perceived QOL indicators that emerge from below. This is of growing importance since it is unclear as to whether the QOL construct is transferable from one cultural and societal context to another.

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