Macau will send home imported laborers to protect its own workers if the economy goes into recession.
Chief Executive Fernando Chui made the pledge after meeting labor representatives who are members of the 400-strong electoral college, Macau Daily reported Thursday.
Chui is seeking a second term as a lone candidate for chief executive in Sunday’s election.
Many employers prefer imported laborers because they are willing to accept lower wages than their local counterparts, the report said, citing industry sources.
This greatly undermines their bargaining power which in certain instances has resulted in pay rises lower than inflation rate. The most affected sectors are the hotel and catering industries, the report said.
Macau hosts 155,000 foreign workers, nearly a quarter of its population.
The number is likely to peak in the coming years, with many casino-resort projects on the Cotai Strip expected to be completed by 2017.
Construction industry leader Cheong Man-fun urged Chui to tighten regulations on imported labor and provide an exit mechanism if the economy deteriorates.
The economy grew 11.9 percent in 2013 but in recent years, it has been subject to severe corrections as happened during the 2008 financial tsunami.
Laborers were among the hardest hit after the ensuing turmoil left all but two construction sites idle, the report said.
At that time, there were about 20,000 non-local construction workers, about the same as local ones. If there had been an exit mechanism for imported labor, local workers would not have been severely affected, Cheong said.
Chui said such an arrangement will be among the priorities of the next government.
“There will be no problem when times are good as everyone has a job. But when problems arise, a law on the management of imported labor is very important,” he said.
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