UN Human Rights Committee

DSAL: Absence of domestic workers’ minimum wage due to ‘special’ work nature

UN Human Rights Committee vice-chair, Shuichi Furuya

The Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL) was yesterday grilled by the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) over the absence of a minimum wage for domestic helpers.

The UNHRC is currently holding online meetings with Macau officials to discuss the SAR’s human rights situation.

Yesterday, as part of the “135th Session of the Human Rights Committee (CCPR)” -”Consideration of Macao, China,” the committee questioned the government about its alleged impartiality on the treatment of resident workers and domestic helpers. 

Among the list of questions, Vice-chair of the committee Shuichi Furuya demanded an answer to the question, “Could you please explain why domestic workers are treated in a different manner? The basic law literally says that there can’t be discrimination on any ground such as race, ethnicity or social origin. Can you explain this disparity?”

DSAL deputy director, Chan Chon U, defended the government’s decision to exclude domestic workers from the minimum wage by noting, “The minimum wage is applied to foreign workers but not to domestic workers. The main reason for it is because domestic helpers are special and families [who] employ domestic workers are providing jobs and the domestic workers are not there [to help them] make profit.”

Back in February 2019, several groups of migrant workers gathered at DSAL calling for a review of policies on domestic workers including a review of an outdated housing allowance and requesting a review of the minimum wage proposal.

That year was the first time that Filipino and Indonesian migrant groups organized a meeting with an official government department.

In the letter addressed to the former Chief Executive Chui Sai On, migrant groups listed a total of 12 items that they believe need review. These include the need to institute a standard contract that clearly defines labor standards in the city, a minimum wage of MOP4,500, and an increase in the outdated housing allowance from MOP500 to MOP1,000.

Meanwhile, Furuya has also questioned the city’s law on employment agency activities, which stipulates that agencies may charge no more than 50% of a worker’s monthly salary.  

He cited that according to the information the committee has received, there are still cases where migrant workers are seeing their wages being deducted to pay the recruitment agencies. 

“How has the new legislation actually worked to improve the situation of migrant workers?” he questioned. 

“If the employers deduct from their salary, it is illegal. If the employers are found to be doing so, they will be fined MOP20,000,” the DSAL director said.

He added that the bureau “considers the social status, situation and condition” of the employer before granting a quota.

“If the employers meet a lower standard, their application would not be approved. Through this this system, [we can] ensure that foreign domestic helpers can have their basic right guaranteed.”

In July 2019, the DSAL has required local employers of domestic helpers to increase the salary of their helpers to MOP3,000 – far lower than the HKD4,630 minimum wage for domestic workers imposed in Hong Kong.

The meeting commenced July 13 and ran for two hours between 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Macau time.

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