By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
A recent survey by the Macau Federation of Trade Unions (FAOM) indicated that most of the respondents wanted the minimum wage to be stipulated at between MOP 30 and MOP 34 per hour, or between MOP 6,000 and MOP 6,499 monthly.
The Macau Small and Medium Enterprises Association said that they “don’t oppose the legislation of minimum wage”, but hope that the Government can at the same time “fully lift the current restrictions on the imported labour quotas”.
Between March and June this year, the FAOM research group on the minimum wage legislation sent out 5,000 questionnaires and received 4,290 valid responses.
The respondents were mainly between 35 and 44 years old and a majority of them had completed junior high school.
The analysis report showed that 85 percent of the respondents supported the legislation on minimum wage, while 11.6 percent were against it.
If the minimum wage was to be introduced in Macau, 25.2 percent or 956 of the respondents agreed that the hourly wage should be between MOP 30 and MOP 34; while “MOP 25 to MOP 29” and “MOP 40 to MOP 49” accounted for respectively 20.9 percent and 10.7 percent.
In regard to the minimum monthly salary, 20.8 percent or 790 of the respondents preferred it to be set between MOP 6,000 and MOP 6,499; followed by “MOP 5,000 to MOP 5,499” and “MOP 8,000 to MOP 8,999” at respectively 14.1 percent and 11.5 percent.
However, the survey also found that most of the respondents did not have much confidence in the successful legislation on minimum wage.
Among those who supported a minimum wage, they believed that the legislation could “protect employees’ living standard and welfare, prevent the continued decline in wages and reduce the opportunity for exploitation by the employers”.
As for those who did not favour the legislation, they argued that a minimum wage would make “employers increase the workloads or cut down other work benefits, lay off employees with low education qualifications or less work experience and would destroy the free market principles”.
If Macau was to impose a minimum wage, the respondents believed that older people, people with low education qualifications, people with low skills and the disabled might encounter more difficulties in finding jobs.
In addition, the findings reported that nearly 40 percent of the respondents preferred a Macau-wide minimum wage system.
Free import of labour
According to the secretary-general of the Macau Small and Medium Enterprises Association, May Lok, the group is not against a minimum wage but believes that if it was to be legislated in Macau, the Government must freeze all the existing restrictions on the import of non-local workers.
In other words, the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) would be able to hire as many imported workers as they need, no matter how many local workers they might have.
Asked whether such a suggestion would encourage local companies to employ more non-local workers, Lok told the Macau Daily Times that local SMEs “actually don’t want to hire imported labour, but they only do so when they can’t find the workers locally”.
She said that nowadays local and non-local workers in the same position basically receive the same amount of salary. “The application procedures for an imported worker usually take a long time, and local workers are more familiar with the local culture and have a stronger network in Macau”.
Meanwhile, Lok said that the minimum wage may “secure people’s income but at the same time destroy their employment opportunities”.
She explained that since employers will then only hire those who have the right qualifications that deserve the salary, “people with low education qualifications, low vocational skills and new graduates will be at risk of losing a job opportunity”.