Hunger in MacauColonized by the Portuguese in the 16th century, Macau was the first European settlement in the Far East. Located in Eastern Asia, Macau borders the South China Sea and China. Although noted as a wealthy country, is hunger in Macau a problem?

Known as the “Las Vegas of the East” and with a GDP per capita more than double that of the United Kingdom, Macau is listed as the world’s third wealthiest city behind Luxembourg and Qatar, according to the International Monetary Fund.

With a population around 600,000 people, Macau’s life expectancy is at 84.5 years. For the male population, it is noted that 15.8 percent were overweight, while 18.8 percent were obese. Significantly more men than women aged 25-44 years were overweight and obese in Macau. Although Asia is noted as the continent with the most hunger issues, hunger in Macau is seen as a country with a small problem of malnutrition, but a bigger problem of overeating.

Local government statistics say that only 2.3 percent of Macau’s population lives in poverty, but the percentage is based on income and does not take into account the high cost of living. With the cost of living rising and wages staying the same, the rising costs have forced some to leave the country to seek a cheaper life in China.

While Macau’s poor are ignored and suffer, big businesses flourish. Instead of building houses and helping the poor, the government allocates more money to the gambling business. It is estimated that 10 percent of the population lives in poverty, with 7 percent struggling to fulfill basic needs such as food.

According to the Macau Daily Times, Macau Oxfam does not simply offer food and other resources to those in need, it also provides them with seeds and teaches them how to get out of the poverty cycle.

Although the country has yet to take action in recognizing hunger in Macau and helping their own, it has formed the organization Macau Famine. This includes a series of educational and fundraising activities based on the year’s theme. Generous donations are used to support World Vision’s work in Asian countries by providing health and nutrition assistance for children and families.

Stefanie Podosek

Poverty in Macau
Macau, the “Las Vegas of the East,” has been prevalent in recent global news, especially as the residence of Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader’s brother who was poisoned in a Kuala Lumpur airport several weeks ago. Behind the façade of a glitzy, Asian gambling den where wealthy men make and squander their fortunes, many people are living in poverty in Macau.

Government officials boast that the rate of poverty in Macau is a mere 2.3 percent of the population. They cite rapid economic development as the reason for this low number, however, through some investigating, organizations such as Caritas Macau have discovered that this number is not entirely accurate.

The percentage does not account for the sky-high cost of living in Macau, and lower wages are often not enough to live comfortably. There are plenty of wealthy people in Macau, but even those who are comparatively poorer have more money than impoverished people elsewhere in the world.

When the high cost of living is taken into account, the number of people living in poverty in Macau jumps up to 10 percent.

A Hard-Working Population

In an interview with The Guardian, one woman at the MGM Macau detailed her struggle as a single mother while working as a cook. Others living in poverty in Macau are forced to leave their homes and find jobs elsewhere in China.

Most of the blame falls on corrupt government officials, who are always looking for opportunities to expand the economic potential to Macau. Government funding is often poured into building developments for the gambling industry instead of helping the poorest in Macau.

It is hopeful that if the government allocated more funding to explicitly help the poor, a significant and more accurate change in the percentage of those living in poverty would occur.

Mary Grace Costa

Photo: Flickr