Labour levy planned to help smaller firms

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 August, 2007, 12:00am

Under a proposed law, Macau employers would have to pay a new levy based on the number of imported workers they hire, Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah said.

The levy was intended to ensure fair play among employers as the city's labour shortage grew, Mr Ho said yesterday.

The city's casino boom has hit smaller businesses, which often protest over the distribution of labour-import quotas. They allege the government favours large firms, especially casinos, in approving labour-import applications.

Companies applying for labour-import quotas often have to wait six to eight months, with no guarantee of a favourable outcome.

'The government is well aware of the pressure on medium- and small-sized companies that are short of human resources,' Mr Ho said. A 'reasonable' levy would be imposed, he said, without elaborating.

Details of the levy will be included in the government's proposal on a labour-import law to be submitted to the legislature later this year. It would also include detailed measures to deter companies from hiring illegal workers.

'The new law is intended to stabilise the labour-import market,' he said.

Macau's labour problem - a dire shortage on one hand and opposition to imported labour on the other - has threatened to slow economic growth and disrupt social harmony. The city has a shortage of between 50,000 and 100,000 workers. It has a working population of more than 280,000, including 70,000 imported workers.

Workers in low-paid jobs are angry that they are not benefiting from the booming economy.

On May 1, more than 6,000 people took part in the city's most violent protest in decades, which left 21 police officers and dozens of demonstrators injured. An officer fired shots into the air during clashes and one bullet hit a passing motorcyclist.

The chief executive also said yesterday that a bill to adjust civil servants' salaries would be submitted to the legislature soon.