Legislator asks for special exemption that could allow domestic workers to be rehired

Legislator Agnes Lam has urged local authorities to open an exemption to the newly proved employment law so as to allow unemployed domestic workers in the city to find new employers.

Due to a revision to the local foreign labour employment law, enforced in October, 2020 non-resident workers are mandated to leave the city and re-enter before being hired again, however, the current pandemic restrictions have barred many overseas workers to follow these requirements.

All travellers arriving in Macao, who are not residents of Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan or mainland China are currently denied entry unless for specific exemptions for foreign nationals travelling from Mainland China.

In statements made to newspaper Tribuna de Macau, the president of the Macau Oversea Worker Employment Agency Association, Ao Ieong Kuong Kao, estimated that, at the moment, around 600 domestic workers from Southeast Asian countries remain stranded after their contracts were terminated

Local residents unable to find domestic helpers have also questioned the Macau Government for an exemption to be provided, with authorities suggesting that local families hire Mainland helpers, however, local wages have remained unattractive for domestic workers from the other side of the border.

According to a written inquiry filed by legislator Lam, between 2017 and 2019, the number of domestic workers in Macau increased by an average of 1,600 per year, however, between January and November of last year, only 50 domestic workers from Mainland China entered the market.

The number of non-resident domestic workers has decreased by 4 per cent between January and November of last year to some 29,683, of which 55.7 per cent came from the Philippines, 21.4 per cent from Vietnam, 14 per cent from Indonesia and only 1.8 per cent were from the mainland.

The legislator also noted that many local families are unable to bear the costs of hiring employees from the mainland, as they demand almost double the salary earned by foreign domestic workers, and suggested for an exception to be made during this period.

‘Can the authorities, through some legal means or special measures, allow local families to hire foreign domestic workers who are unemployed and long-term retained in Macau […] in order to solve the difficulties in hiring partially,’ she asks in the inquiry.

In addition, Lam urged the Government to launch a subsidy that could assist families in need or to increase the quotas allowed for domestic workers and the number of employment agencies allowed to hire mainland domestic helpers..