Usual residence condition of social security passed

Thursday, August 12, 2010
Issue 1087, Page 4
Word count: 576
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Local residents who were not living in Macau for at least 183 days in the past 12 months immediately before applying to become a contributor to the non-mandatory social security system will not be considered eligible according to the newest legislation.

The bill to revise the current social security system passed the final reading at the Legislative Assembly yesterday. However, some lawmakers called the usual residence condition a “violation of local people’s freedom of movement and the principle of equality as stated in the Basic Law”.

Au Kam San, Ng Kuok Cheong and José Pereira Coutinho voted against the passage of the restriction, and Chan Wai Chi abstained from voting.

According to Article 13, Macau residents aged 18 or above who wish to register with the Social Security Fund (FSS) to become a voluntary contributor will only have their applications accepted if they were physically in Macau for a minimum of 183 days in the preceding 12 months.

Yet, exemptions will be given to those who were studying in a high school or tertiary education institute, hospitalised due to illness, aged 65 or above and the mainland is their place of usual residence, or needed to financially support the living expenses of their spouses and directly related family members who were living in Macau.

The Chief Executive can also grant an exemption to applicants who do not meet any of the situations above on “humanitarian grounds or as a result of other appropriately described reasons”.

Directly elected lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong criticised the fairness of the usual residence requirement, adding a lot of local people have been “forced” to move to Zhuhai as they could not afford the housing expenses in Macau and the Government failed to supply enough public housing.

José Pereira Coutinho stressed that only when a “strong reason” was provided could the Government “deprive local people of the right to become a social security contributor”.

He also questioned the FSS officials of why the exemption excluded elderly residents who have moved to places other than mainland China, such as Hong Kong or Taiwan.

FSS president Fung Ping Kuen explained that the 183-day requirement aimed to make sure that only “people who have maintained a close connection with the Macau SAR can join the social security system”.

However, Coutinho argued that a resident’s relationship with Macau should not be defined by how long he/she has stayed in the territory. “How about people who were born and raised and had worked in Macau for 30 years, just because he wasn’t in Macau in the past year the Government has to deny his connection with Macau?”

Thus he said the Government’s decision was “a dictatorial behaviour, discriminative and absurd”.

Meanwhile, Fung Ping Kuen told the lawmakers that residents who don’t live in Macau but have entered and left the territory within 24 hours will still be counted as having stayed in the territory for a day.

A Government’s legal advisor also said that the requirement was neither a restriction to people’s rights nor a discriminative act.

He added that Hong Kong and Taiwan were excluded from the exemption since local residents were usually born in the mainland if not in Macau.

On the other hand, Fung Ping Kuen disclosed that the next step for the Government is to study how much the monthly contribution amount, which currently stands at MOP 45, needs to be increased, in order to sustain the operation of the FSS after 2039.

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