‘Hey, we’re here!’

Thursday, April 28, 2011
Issue 1294, Page 2
Word count: 595
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The Macau Government has, once again, decided to handout cash to local residents in response to what the chief executive describes as ‘super inflation’.

But wait, isn’t soaring price levels also felt by the nearly 80,000 people who, in spite of not holding a Macau identity card, live and work in the SAR?

Of these imported workers there are certainly some who earn a high salary and therefore inflation has less of an impact on them. But how about the rest of these people, the majority of whom are unskilled and maybe make just a couple of thousand each month?

Inflation in March already reached 5.46 percent and people feel the money they have in their hands has continued to depreciate. Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On said last week at the legislature that the newest round of cash handouts is expected to only increase price levels ‘very slightly’, by less than 0.45 percent. No matter how minimal this growth is, it will affect all people living in Macau, including those who have never benefited from the so-called ‘wealth partaking scheme’.

In my perspective, a non-resident worker by the way, first impressions of imported workers from locals are not very positive because they believe that imported workers ‘accept unreasonably low wages and take away jobs from locals’. But isn’t it the government’s responsibility not to approve more non-resident workers than Macau actually needs, as well as employer’s responsibility to offer fair wages and not sack local workers in exchange for cheap labour?

Needless to say Macau is in great need of human resources, regardless of them being skilled or non-skilled. In this sense, one would expect that the SAR would recognise and respect non-local contributions and the government should have already formulated specific policy just like its Singapore counterparts to attract talented people to come to work in the territory.

But in reality the situation seems to be the other way round.

The government allows non-residents to work in Macau, but the absence of welfare policy especially for this group of people seems to suggest that they don’t deserve at all to enjoy any benefits offered by the government.

I don’t mean that imported labour and local people should be treated equally in terms of social welfare and other kinds of government benefits. But I do believe that migrant workers overall deserve more respect from the government and society at large.

Chairwoman of the Women’s General Association of Macau Candice Chio Ngan Ieng did admit in an interview with the Macau Daily Times some time ago that the presence of imported domestic helpers has allowed a lot of local women to join the labour force instead of being “forced” to stay at home to take care of their families and undertake household chores all day.

The Labour Affairs Bureau head Shuen Ka Hung in this Monday’s gathering with local media also mentioned that people can’t discriminate against imported workers, referring to the recent complaints by some owners of a luxury residence in Avenida da Horta e Costa that a number of apartments there have become “dorms” for non-local workers.

Nevertheless, Shuen’s earlier comment that non-resident workers ‘who aren’t happy with the new imported labour law can just go home’ has indicated how officials generally think of this group of people. Did the government take the lead to create and/or consolidate this not so friendly feeling toward imported workers?

By the way, doesn’t xenophobia or discrimination kill a harmonious society, one that Macau has strived to maintain?

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