Domestic workers

Migrant domestic workers already enjoy fair working conditions despite minimum wage exclusion – Gov’t

The Macao SAR authorities have justified to the United Nations Human Rights Committee the exclusion of non-resident domestic workers from minimum wage requirements on the grounds that these workers “do not help families to make profits” and that the local labor authorities are already ensuring that these workers can receive “fair working conditions”.

From July 13 to 15, the Macao SAR will undergo a review by the UN Human Rights Committee, comprising three sessions of two hours each.

A new Labor Relations Act which came into force in November 2020 established for the first time a minimum wage of MOP 6,656 per month for resident workers and non-resident workers, excluding domestic helpers and sick workers. of a disability.

In its official response to the commission, the Bureau of Labor Affairs (DSAL) said it would adjust its pay benchmarks in time when approving applications from non-resident workers to guarantee their salary level.

Shuichi Furuya, vice-chairman of the committee, lobbied the Macao delegation on the difference between resident and non-resident domestic helpers.

“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? Furuya asked.

In a response, DSAL deputy director Chan Chon U said the main reason the difference was made was because of the “special” nature of domestic help work.

“Families who employ domestic helpers provide jobs and their helpers are not there to help them make a profit. In order to ensure the assistance of foreign domestic helpers, the employer will take into account their social conditions. If the employer meets a lower standard, the job application will not be approved,” Chan said.

“This is done to ensure that domestic helpers can have their fundamental rights guaranteed”

Shuichi Furuya

In May this year, there were 24,543 non-resident domestic helpers in the Macao SAR, the majority from the Philippines, Vietnam or Indonesia.

The UN Committee member also pressed the delegation on the measures put forward by the DSAL to protect domestic migrants, who were considered “particularly vulnerable to unlawful and abusive treatment by employers”.

To this, Chan replied that the DSAL will collect the information provided in the complaints and act accordingly.

“Whether resident or non-resident, whatever their contractual obligations, everyone must respect the law, on contractual relations, all the provisions are contained in our law on employment relations,” he said. .

“Non-resident workers enjoy the same rights as resident workers. Employers must provide accommodation and at the end of the contract they must cover the costs of returning to their country, fines are applied for any violation”

Chan also answered questions posed by the committee on what had been done by the SAR government to respond to reports that recruitment agencies charge domestic workers two months’ salary and that some employers of domestic workers deduct commissions. recruitment agencies of their salary.

“Macau law does not allow recruitment agencies to charge commissions. Nevertheless, according to information received by the committee, there are cases of migrant workers who have their wages withheld by employers to pay and cover recruitment agency fees,” Furuya asked.

“How has the new legislation really helped to improve the situation of migrant workers? »

In its official response, the Macao SAR said that the new law on the activities of employment agencies which came into force in March 2021 establishes more rigorous requirements for the issuance and renewal of licenses of employment agencies, introduced the employment referral system and improved the fee and fine system.

For example, in terms of paid services, to ensure the continued operation of employment agencies and to take into consideration the ability to pay of workers, including non-resident workers.

The law states that employment agencies can charge workers a service fee not exceeding 50 percent of salary for the first month 60 days after signing an employment contract and expressly prohibits employment agencies from charging fees of service when non-resident workers’ residence permits expire and current employers apply for their renewal.

In the event of unilateral termination of the employment contract by the employer during the trial period, the employment agencies must reimburse the workers at least 50% of the fees.

If employment agencies violate the above regulations, they will be fined MOP 20,000 to MOP 50,000 for each worker involved in the breach.

“In order to strengthen law enforcement, DSAL continuously carries out on-site inspections and checks at employment agencies through education and inspection, including before issuance and renewal of licenses.

After the last session is held on July 15, the UN Human Rights Committee will hold a press conference on July 27 to present its findings.