The results made public by the government last week about the public consultation on the so-called ‘universal’ minimum wage, showed that the majority of respondents, which included individual and interested parties, believe that domestic workers should not be entitled to receive a minimum wage in Macau.
With the exception of some participants who may have supported the implementation of a truly ‘universal’ scheme for a minimum wage, domestic worker’s associations may not have enough weight to pressure in their favour.
Because what people say lately seems to be unshakable – unless it serves some opaque private interest, which goes against public opinion, such as in the case of the shipyards – and because the government has, since early on, been inclined to exclude domestic workers from the scheme, it is very likely the final scenario will be the same.
Moreover, it is improbable that domestic worker’s associations will pressure to meet the Secretary as they did when the government announced an increase in birth delivery fees – with the government’s promise to not increase the rates for foreign workers having failed, it is not of much value at this stage. But let’s assume there is always a second chance to make it right.
The chances that domestic worker’s bargaining power may turn things around though, are very low. If it goes against ‘society,’ how would the government justify including the category in the new scheme? It probably will not.
To do the math, it is good to make some comparisons. The average salary of a construction worker in Macau in May was roughly MOP23,500. Construction labour requires highly physical efforts and thus a shorter professional life. Men working here in this field usually do not have a high level of education, if any, which is a point that deserves to be raised when analyzing the case of domestic workers.
It is likely that many of these women have not undergone many years of formal education. But they do speak English, many times Chinese, and they have a hard work type of employment – cleaning, cooking, and taking care of children is far from an easy or always pleasant task.
Now, using the fact that some or many of these women fall into the category of non-skilled labour does not justify the paltry salaries they are paid here. It is always puzzling to see how people entrust their offspring, their time and their property to people they pay so low.
Making this only a case of economic calculation is shortsighted and does not seem to have made ‘society’ much better in the last few years. There is chance to improve it now.