A recent controversy over financial aid has shed light on the long-suffering relationship between the interests of resident and non-resident workers here. This is largely caused by a lack of transparency in labor import policies, observers say.

Tony Lai

34,100 or less

– Decrease in Macau’s non-resident workforce since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic

Macau Chamber of Commerce should consider offering MOP3,000 (US$375) consumption vouchers each to non-resident employees for local governments as part of the government’s COVID-19 financial relief package in early August Many residents immediately exploded with anger after proposing that it was. Take your grievances online to influential local trade associations. They accused the Chamber of Commerce of testing water for the government and argued that resources should be invested first in local people.

Authorities have pledged to address the situation immediately and not provide financial assistance to non-residents, but this simmering tension between residents and non-resident workers that has long become apparent in the city , may continue to fluctuate over a challenging outlook. Local economy and labor market.

“The authorities have set so many hurdles to keep residents out of financial assistance, now just pay MOP3,000 to non-resident employees?”, “ Fortunately, many residents have voiced their opposition.Otherwise, the government would really do it.”… These are the numerous comments left by netizens online regarding the Macau Chamber of Commerce proposal. is part of

Political commentator Nelson Kot Man Kam said the outrage was a result of the government’s efforts to provide prompt assistance to residents during the city’s latest community COVID-19 outbreak in June and July. We believe that this is the result of the absence of Authorities have pledged two packages of MOP10 billion each for ordinary citizens facing adverse economic impacts caused by the pandemic, with one-off subsidies for eligible employees and employers. A first round of relief, including gold, has been available since mid-2015. No details yet on his MOP10 billion package for the second, but August.

“Local employees and employers who are not eligible for the initial MOP10 billion package are already feeling angry and overlooked by the government,” Cotto said, adding that the proposals for non-resident workers emphasized that it only intensified the anger of those residents. A non-resident employee, who has suffered just as much as a resident in this latest outbreak, over the past two years after the outbreak of the pandemic, said he: is added like [in this wave of public vexation]”

lack of transparency

“Tensions between locals and non-resident workers have always existed in Macau,” said Eilo Yu Wing Yat, associate professor of government and public administration at the University of Macau. “This tension is not only happening in Macau, but also in other parts of the world, as locals worry that they will not be able to enjoy resources in competition with non-locals.”

Scholars add that the issue of non-resident employees has always been “politicized” here. For example, over the past decade, the government has pledged not to open casino dealer jobs, considered high-paying jobs that do not require specific skills, to import labor.

A “long lack of transparency” in labor import policies and measures has largely caused and maintained this tension between the two sides, the scholar added. “Although authorities regularly publish data on non-resident employees, there is no detailed breakdown of the distribution of non-resident employees in different occupations that the public would like to know.” he explains. “There has also been talk over the years that many local businesses would simply hire residents in exchange for import quotas of labor.”

The recent downturn in the local economy and deterioration in the labor market due to the COVID-19 pandemic has raised tensions again, Professor Yu said. Macau’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) plummeted for his third straight quarter, most recently dropping by 39.3% in the second quarter of 2022, according to the latest official data. This is due to the latest community outbreak and a wave of sporadic cases in neighboring areas. The city has only reported positive growth in two of his 10 quarters since the pandemic began.

Local employment has also deteriorated in recent months. According to the Statistics and Census Bureau, the region-wide unemployment rate for May-July 2022 is 4.1%, the highest since September-November 2005, and unemployment among residents. The rate reached just 5.4%. The May-July period of 2022 was the highest level since such data became available in 2008. Macau’s overall underemployment rate (employees involuntarily working less than 35 hours per week) also hit a record high of 13.4 from May to July 2022. %, the first time such data became available was he in 1996.

“Tensions between locals and non-resident workers have always existed in Macau… [and it] It’s happening not only in Macau, but in other parts of the world…because local people are worried that they won’t be able to enjoy resources in competition with non-locals,” said scholar Eilo Yu. increase.

Colorful lanterns are seen at Largo do Senado in Macau, southern China, on September 3, 2022. (Xinhua/Cheong Kam Ka)

social stability

“Ensuring local employment is key to social stability,” agrees legislator Nick Leung Leung Wong. “If the local unemployment rate soars, it will cause various social problems.”

During a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Assembly in early August, Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng pledged that the authorities would adopt a “proactive stance” to curb local unemployment, and that all industries would be encouraged to positions are available to residents. As long as they are interested.

In a statement, the Department of Labor said the agency held 17 job matching sessions in August alone and worked with gaming and resort operators, the Macau Banking Association and the Macau Federation of Trade Unions to provide residents with 889 job openings. said he did. As of the end of August, the authorities had successfully helped 4,156 residents find new jobs, exceeding the tally of 3,233 for the entire 2021, the agency added.

In addition to the broad measures deployed by authorities to address local unemployment problems, the government has also reduced the size of non-resident workers, including subsidized vocational training courses for residents. Nonetheless, Mr Lei stresses that resident unemployment remains high, despite a significant drop in the number of non-resident employees over the past two years. The number of non-resident workers fell 17.4% from 196,538 at the end of 2019 to nearly 162,400 at the end of June 2022, according to the latest Labor Department statistics.

So instead of “blindly” reducing the size of non-residents, authorities need to carefully examine the job needs of residents, he added. “The government should cut labor import quotas for occupations that residents want and can do, including managerial positions in gaming operators, banks, brands, marketing, retail, etc.,” the lawmaker said. . “Authorities need to make room for companies to fill these positions.”

“Ensuring local employment is a major key to social stability,” says legislator Nick Ray Leon Wong

small business key

“Different stakeholders have different views on the issue of resident and non-resident workers,” said Fong Kin Fu, president of the Macau Federation of Small and Medium Business General Commercial Association. “Residents who have recently lost their jobs are usually workers in sectors such as gaming, construction, and many of them want to look for new jobs in the same segment,” said the businessman. “But given the current state of the gaming industry, it’s difficult to do so.”

In the first seven months of the year, total gaming revenue fell 53.6% year-on-year to MOP26.67 billion, only 15.3% of pre-pandemic levels. The lackluster performance is due to the impact of COVID-19 and increased oversight over the games division. Namely, the demise of local junket his operator over the arrest of junket boss Alvin Chau Cheok Wa and Levo Chan Weng Lin. last year.

“Despite recent increases in unemployment among residents, local SMEs [SMEs] Residents continue to face employment difficulties because they are not interested in working for SMEs due to low salaries,” explained Fong, citing the importance of non-local labor in the local economy, especially in running SMEs. guarantee the sex. (Small and medium-sized enterprises).

While there were reports that the government severely cut quotas for companies’ labor imports in light of soaring resident unemployment, the chairman of the Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises said that in most cases, unused quotas for companies were left unutilized. “For example, if a company has quotas for 10 non-resident workers, the authorities may only renew the quotas for 9 of them. For companies that don’t, most remain intact,” he adds.

“Despite recent increases in unemployment among residents, local SMEs [SMEs] “Residents continue to face employment difficulties as they are not interested in working for SMEs due to low salaries,” said Fong Kin Fu, head of the SME Association.

upward movement

Transparent rules and measures to facilitate upward migration of residents beyond simply providing jobs are also important. “The public knows that it is unrealistic for Macau to be independent of non-residents,” Lei said. “Non-residents, for example, are paramount in the development of some emerging high-tech industries here.”

“The key is for the government to have clear mechanisms for companies and plans to develop residents to fill middle and senior management positions. [some of which are occupied by non-residents at the moment]’ explains the legislator. “Otherwise, locals will never have the opportunity to move up the career ladder.”

After all, resident and non-resident workers should not be at odds. “[What residents ultimately concern] The important thing is not the non-resident workers, but whether they can find a job and whether they can find a suitable job,” adds Professor Yu.

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