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2013 Policy Address: Casinos employ 24pct foreign workers, 59pct for hotels

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Twenty four percent of the total workforce in the 6 casino concessionaires in Macau are foreign workers, which is higher than the average level of the overall labor force in the territory, but the proportion is as high as 59 percent in hotels without a casino according to the Secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam, who also disclosed that more mainland domestic helpers will be coming to Macau early next year. 
Tam and his subordinates were at the Legislative Assembly yesterday to explain the economic plans listed in the 2013 Policy Address. The labor issue was one of the major concerns among lawmakers, with some questioning the government’s policy for the employment of foreign labor by companies in Macau, especially casino operators. Ng Kuok Cheong suspected the government was granting special favor to the 6 casino groups since all of them had a foreign labor force ratio well over the 20 percent ceiling imposed.
“Casino operators all exceeded their upper limit on foreign labor, which only benefits the businessmen at the expense of local workers and therefore the long-term and balanced development of Macau society,” he said.
The lawmaker from the trade union group, Kwan Tsui Hang, also agreed that the policies governing foreign workers were affecting local laborers’ upward mobility chances: “The government is working hard on training for workers but vocational training doesn’t necessarily mean upward mobility. For example, some hotels employ a whole group of chefs from Hong Kong or the mainland. Local chefs told me it means they’ll have no chances of promotion.”
In his explanation, Francis Tam stressed that the ratio of foreign laborers in local casinos is 24 percent on average, which is lower than the overall level as there are over 100,000 non-local workers out of the nearly 350,000-strong total workforce. But he did not explain why the level well exceeded the 20 percent ceiling the authority set for casino operators. The ratio is even higher in hotels, with 52 percent of non-local workers employed in hotels with gaming facilities, while the total for three-star hotels without casinos stood at 59 percent.
Francis Tam said while keeping the level of foreign laborers in casinos low, the government would also try to balance the impacts on the local labor market. If gaming operators employ more local workers, the impact will be too much for local SMEs, which are already less competitive in their salary remuneration. 

“Now employers have to prove that they are not able to employ locals; these procedures create even higher pressures on SMEs which are already suffering from staff insufficiency”

- Kou Hoi In

Kwan also expressed indignation over the government’s approach to imported labor: “The government’s legislation work is too business-oriented; this the most enraging issue of all. There’s no progress on labor-related legislation, such as the statutory minimum wage, and compensation for injuries caused by industrial accidents. We have waited for years to no avail, while the amendment to the Law on Hiring Non-resident Workers was submitted here quickly, because it favors the employers.” Kwan also complained that despite repeated promises by the current and former Chief Executives, there is still no designated legislation against illegal labor or for settling outstanding salary payments in case of employers’ bankruptcy. Fellow trade union legislator Lam Heong Sang said the void in relevant laws had led to repeated legal disputes in which foreign workers had even resorted to attempting suicide in an effort to reclaim their pay.
José Pereira Coutinho questioned why an expo company could employ as many as 164 foreign workers for an auto fair while only 400 locals were given the opportunity to take the jobs. He repeated his call for legislation allowing the setting up of trade unions and for workers’ collective bargaining with employers. 
Kou Hoi In, however, proposed to separate job opportunities into two categories: positions the locals are willing to take and others they’re not. And the latter should be open to more foreign workers: “We should approach the issue more open-mindedly. I agree with the CE’s intention to separate the employment into two categories, those the local workers want and those they don’t want to take. So what are the jobs in the two categories? For the latter, we should simplify the procedures for introducing laborers. Now employers have to prove that they are not able to employ locals; these procedures create even higher pressure on SMEs which are already suffering from staff insufficiency.”
Finally, Lau Veng Seng also pointed out that more laborers are needed for the major construction projects set to be rolled out over the coming years. He called for more accurate information on the real number of local workers in this field, and thus the number for foreign workers.


5 slot machine parlors have to relocate
Half of the 11 slot machine parlors currently operating outside five-star hotels will have to relocate to places farther away from residential areas after the new administrative dispatch to keep such gaming venues out of densely populated areas is announced, according to Francis Tam. The Secretary told legislators that the new dispatch is a “tightening” of the regulations governing the operation of such parlors, including those inside the dog-racing venue. The new guidelines aim to keep gaming venues away from residential zones and requires the parlors to be situated only in five-star hotels or non-residential buildings that are within a 500-meter distance of a licensed hotel-casino. One of them in the Canidrome will have to close, which mean the remaining 5 will be forced to relocate.

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