Can Macau bring home its overseas talent pool?

By: Keith Morrison

Author and educationist

A back-of-the-envelope SWOT analysis will tell you that what Macau offers might not attract the reported 160,000 ‘local talents’ working overseas. Why do so many not want to return? ‘Talents’ who live overseas might come back for family reasons, but it’s hard to see what else might induce them to return. Training opportunities, provided plentifully by the CDT, are insufficient; a pig garlanded with seraphic smiles and sparkling adornments, however lavish and entrancing, is still only a pig. Some problems here may even be insoluble, given Macau’s small size.  

Where would you rather live, in Macau or elsewhere?  

Option one: outside Macau. Live somewhere with diverse and interesting job opportunities, open spaces, places for children to run free, easy access to countryside, clean air, clear skies, vibrant arts cultures, uncongested wide streets, intriguing shops, excellent schools, affordable property, public transport that works, local government that listens to its people and acts promptly in their interests, decent health services, high quality of life, and an acceptable worklife balance.  

Option two: Macau. Live in a city where difficulties are daily lived experiences, the range of jobs is limited and substantial openings in anything but business, tourism, shops and restaurants are restricted, non-existent or unsupported. What future does this hold for those ‘talents’ and their children who have wider horizons or qualifications?  

Working in Macau can mean putting up with stifling routine, silent obedience, saturnine bosses and limited or no control over work. Employment contracts in Macau are almost worthless, being trumped by Macau law. Many of Macau’s sclerotic employers, in the words of the poet Robert Service, ‘moil for gold’ at the cost to their employees’ pay and conditions, rights and sense of fulfilment at work.   

What happens when you get old in Macau? The health, social services and opportunities for many senior citizens to have fulfilling lives vary from the abysmal to the barely halfdecent. There are daily crowds at hospitals, with no completion date given for the new hospital, supposed to open in 2014.  

Look at Macau’s environment: we don’t need the meteorological bureau to sugar-coat the situation by reporting the supposedly few days of high pollution each year; just look at the sky and breathe the filthy air in Macau’s streets. Smell the stink of foul water in parts of Macau. See nighttime luminosity block out the stars. Hear inescable noise from traffic and people. See huge crowds[Symbol]millions[Symbol]quadruptling already overpopulated Macau each month, making many areas a nightmare for residents. Look at Macau’s shambles of crowded buildings, unaffordable property and concrete jungles. Why spend millions on a poky apartment in Macau when the same money can buy you a mansion and gardens overseas?   

Look at the appalling traffic congestion and lamentable public transport, exacerbated all over Macau by endless, endless road works. Struggle with taxi sharks and brutish drivers with no road sense or manners.  

If ‘talents’ come back to Macau with families, how many schools provide ‘quality’ education at international standards? Will their children ever be able to afford an apartment when they grow up? 

Then there is China. If ‘talents’ return from the West, how comfortable will they feel being required to love a motherland (as if it’s possible to demand love) and to be governed by an allsurveilling and allcontrolling, if self-declaredly benevolent, system flexing its muscles as 2049 approaches (the end of the transition period), i.e. in their lifetime? 

Would you really swap living overseas for this?  

When Macau’s citizens go abroad, the genie is out of the bottle; they see attractions in staying away. When I think of the delusional ease with which Macau thinks it can render itself remotely attractive to returnees, I am reminded of Nietzsche’s exquisite irony when he writes: “ ‘We have invented happiness’ say the last men, and they blink”.