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Lawmakers pass overall minimum wage bill

Tue, 9th Jul 2019

The Legislative Assembly (AL) Monday passed the outline of a government-initiated bill on the implementation of a statutory minimum wage for all workers except domestic helpers and employees with disabilities.
 
The bill proposes a statutory minimum wage of 32 patacas per hour and that the government would review the amount of the minimum wage every two years.
 
Macau is the only Chinese jurisdiction that still does not have an overall minimum wage law. Minimum wage laws and regulations are in force in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
 
Secretary for Economy and Finance Lionel Leong Vai Tac introduced the outline of the bill during a plenary session in the legislature’s hemicycle yesterday.
 
During the plenum, several lawmakers from the business sector said that the implementation of an overall minimum wage would push up the city’s inflation rate, while several legislators representing the labour sector said that employees should have basic wage protection, and that the proposed introduction of a minimum wage system for all employment sectors comes rather late considering the extraordinary performance of Macau’s economic development over the past two decades since the city’s return to the motherland.

Two indirectly-elected lawmakers representing the business sector, Kou Hoi In and Ip Sio Kai, voted against the bill, while 24 legislators voted in favour of the bill. Indirectly-elected lawmaker José Chui Sai Peng abstained. The legislature currently has 32 members after chief executive candidate Ho Iat Seng resigned from the legislature last week. Legislative Assembly Vice President Chui Sai Cheong, who presided over yesterday’s plenum, did not vote. Customarily, the lawmaker presiding over a plenum refrains from voting. The remaining lawmakers were absent.
 
A statutory minimum wage of 30 patacas per hour – or 240 patacas a day or 6,240 patacas a month – for cleaners and doormen employed by the property management sector has been in force since January 1, 2016. The government initially said that it aimed for the statutory minimum wage to be extended to all employment sectors within three years after the implementation of the minimum wage for the property management sector’s cleaners and doormen – meaning it should have been implemented by January 2019.
 
Last month, the legislature passed a government-initiated bill which will raise the statutory minimum wage for cleaners and doormen employed the property management sector to 32 patacas per hour from the current 30 patacas, an increase of 6.6 percent. The new minimum wage of 32 patacas per hour for the property management sector’s cleaners and doormen will be implemented from September 1.
 
The bill aims to allow all workers to have basic wage protection, “preventing them from being paid a too low wage”, Leong said during the meeting.
 
Leong said that before having finished drafting the bill on the implementation of an overall minimum wage, the government had assessed the situation concerning the implementation of the minimum wage for the property management sector’s cleaners and doormen, and had also referenced the experiences of a number of countries and regions where a minimum wage system for all employment sectors is in force, Leong said.
 
Leong said the nature of the employment of domestic helpers is different from the other occupations in the job market, as their employment is not for the purpose of running a business and generating a profit. He said that therefore the government proposes to exclude domestic helpers from the implementation of the minimum wage in the bill.
 
Leong also said that the government proposes to also exclude employees with disabilities from the minimum wage, to achieve the right balance between safeguarding their employment opportunities in the job market and ensuring their wage protection.

The bill proposes that the amount of the statutory minimum wage be 32 patacas an hour – or 256 patacas a day or 1,536 patacas a week or 6,656 patacas a month, Leong said.
 
The bill proposes that the government carry out a review of the amount of the minimum wage two years after the implementation of the overall minimum wage, and that afterwards the government will have to review the amount every two years, Leong said.
 

Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL) Deputy Director Ng Wai Han told yesterday’s plenum that currently 26,600 employees would potentially benefit from the minimum wage law.
 
According to official statistics, Macau’s labour force stood at 394,100 in May.