The fight to establish a minimum wage law for domestic helpers is obviously not coming to an end any time soon.
The decision made by lawmaker Sulu Sou to exclude the group, along with disabled employees, in the proposed minimum wage bill disappointed a significant number of migrant workers.
According to these groups, Sou had been showing support regarding their situation during and after his campaign last year, giving hope to domestic workers that they would actually be heard in the Legislative Assembly.
We can’t really blame these vulnerable groups for having their hopes raised high, as the lawmaker’s initial support had been shown, and it is very rare for them to be heard in the region.
The city’s domestic workers are calling on a law that has long been established in other regions, including Hong Kong.
In September, Hong Kong slightly raised its minimum wage for its foreign domestic workers to HKD4,520 from HKD4,410 – dubbed as a “slave wage increase” by some migrant groups in the neighboring region.
These workers’ workload is heavy. Thousands of them multitask; taking care of the elderly, while looking after children, bringing them to school, and undertaking household chores.
Undoubtedly, the meager 2.5 percent increase does not amount to much. It is insulting and shameful for a city like Hong Kong. Yet, that could still be called progress – something that domestic workers in Macau do not see nor foresee.
There is no progress in their calls for a salary increase, protection of rights, or housing allowances; no progress in their calls for stricter working hours – as several of them work over 12 hours a day – and their call for the removal of the six-month ban when workers are fired.
On the stagnant MOP500 housing allowance, which was introduced over a decade ago, these workers say it is too low to provide them with better accommodation.
Leaders of migrant groups say they are pushing to hold dialogues with an official from the Labor Affairs Bureau, noting that they have acquired some 3,000 signatures calling for an improvement in their standard of living in Macau.
These vulnerable groups also lament that they are not included in the public consultation – which makes sense, as they are non-residents, but that does not mean they should be excluded from having their voices heard.
With all the progress that the city has made, one wonders how difficult it is to give attention and time to these migrant groups and give them the platform they deserve as an integral part of the society.
This problem is nothing new, but has been exacerbated by years of inflation outstripping salary increases of domestic workers and their allowances.
The absence of protection rights and the mere establishment of a minimum wage law for these vulnerable groups has always been discussed and yet almost nothing has been done, nor is it making progress. Consulates also play a significant role in these matters, yet they can only open dialogues with relevant government departments.
These vulnerable groups are in need of an effective mechanism that guarantees adequate rest and satisfactory income to cope up with the city’s high living standards.