Our Desk | Positive discrimination?

Lynzy Valles

The Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL) launched a 45-day public consultation last week regarding the proposed implementation of a statutory minimum wage for all workers – excluding domestic helpers and disabled employees.

As the authorities described the supposedly fair wage increase to non-residents, they noted that this move could also be dubbed as “positive discrimination,” whatever that means.

DSAL has already explained that the draft at the consultation excludes some workers, due to the “uniqueness” of the nature of domestic workers, and the the disabled workers “employment rights.”

With that said, these workers, particularly household workers, slammed the government’s move noting that it is unfair for them to not be included in the proposed implementation of a minimum wage.

These workers, many of whom are active on social media, have actively expressed themselves online, implying that Macau’s authorities are expected to do better than implementing these kinds of measures.

Macau will not acquire a minimum wage law for these workers. Disconcerting as it could be, the city does not demand that employers need to pay long service fees, (as compared to the HKSAR, where they are required to), nor does it protect the rights of these workers.

It is unnecessary to continually give quotas to residents who cannot afford to pay a basic MOP3,800 to these workers – but that is just another matter that is not being tackled.

Now that Macau is planning on a universal minimum wage, these household workers should be the ones prioritized in this plan, including other low-paying jobs.

At the beginning of the year, a statutory minimum wage of MOP30 per hour for cleaners and doormen employed by the property management sector was enforced.

If they could establish that minimum, why can’t they for domestic workers?

If a household employee earns MOP3,800 per month, she would earn MOP126 per day.

If on average domestic helpers earn MOP126 per day, it would be painful to do the further calculations to work out the hourly rate. 

And what about those earning less than that?

This is not about domestic workers feeling entitled to be included in whatever assistance or subsidies the government gives to the BIR holders, but this is about – at least – raising the city’s image regarding their labor laws regarding these workers.

These workers should not be left behind when it comes to labor laws and minimum wage laws as they are already the lowest earners in the region.

These workers are not demanding a relatively high pay, but they want their voices to be heard by local authorities as well.  After all, they are employees who assume positions in thousands of households – which residents would not be doing.

If it’s the “uniqueness” of the nature of their job that is the main reason why they are not included in the universal minimum wage implementation, these employees in Macau will not accept this as valid grounds for exclusion.

Is it unique in a sense where they work over eight hours a day, or in a sense where their salaries have never been lawfully adjusted along with the inflation in the cost of living in the city?

The government has always pledged to “listen to public opinion,” but I doubt these workers are included in the government’s definition of “public.”

These are workers who need local unions to fight for their rights so that they are heard.

Rights protection for domestic helpers would allow them to feel protected and valued, in a period of their lives where they have left the comfort of their homes – by choice – to serve MSAR residents.

Why can’t we implement something that would also be in their favor?

Categories Opinion