Domestic workers

Lack of minimum wage for domestic workers due to the “special” nature of the work

Vice-Chairman of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Shuichi Furuya

Jhe The Bureau of Labor Affairs (DSAL) was questioned yesterday by the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) about the lack of a minimum wage for domestic helpers.

The HRC is currently holding online meetings with Macau officials to discuss the human rights situation in the SAR.

Yesterday, as part of the “135th Session of the Human Rights Committee (CCPR)” – “Consideration of Macau, China”, the committee questioned the government on its alleged impartiality regarding the treatment of resident workers and aides servants.

Among the list of questions, the vice chairman of the committee, Shuichi Furuya, demanded an answer to the question: “Could you please explain why domestic workers are treated differently?” The basic law literally says that there can be no discrimination based on a ground such as race, ethnic origin 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, noting: “The minimum wage is applied to foreign workers but not to domestic workers. The main reason for this is that domestic helpers are special and families [who] employ domestic workers provide jobs and domestic workers are not there [to help them] make profit.”

In February 2019, several groups of migrant workers came together at DSAL to demand a review of policies on domestic workers, including a review of an outdated housing allowance and demanding a review of the minimum wage proposal.

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

In the letter to former chief executive Chui Sai On, the migrant groups listed a total of 12 items they say need to be revised. These include the need to institute a model contract that clearly defines working standards in the city, a minimum wage of MOP 4,500 and an increase in the outdated housing allowance from MOP 500 to MOP 1,000.

Meanwhile, Furuya also questioned the city’s employment agency business law, which states that agencies cannot charge more than 50% of a worker’s monthly salary.

He said that according to the information the commission has received, there are still cases where migrant workers have their wages deducted to pay recruitment agencies.

“How has the new legislation really helped to improve the situation of migrant workers? he asked.

“If employers deduct from their wages, it is illegal. If employers are found to do so, they will be fined MOP 20,000,” the DSAL director said.

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

“If employers meet a lower standard, their application will not be approved. Thanks to this system, [we can] ensure that foreign domestic workers can have their fundamental rights guaranteed.

In July 2019, DSAL asked local employers of domestic helpers to raise the wages of their helpers to MOP 3,000 – well below the minimum wage of HKD 4,630 for domestic workers imposed in Hong Kong.

The meeting began on July 13 and lasted two hours between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Macau time.