Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Macau SAR (China)

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Macau SAR (China), 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 20 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 544,000

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


While a new labour law was passed in 2009, Macau remains without universal freedom of association. Strikes are rare and difficult to organise successfully, and there is little practical protection against the blacklisting and sacking of strikers. Collective bargaining is weak, and the power of pro-establishment, pro-Beijing unions remains strong despite new and independent trade unions. Problems exist over a new and potentially discriminatory law for migrants while concern remains over trafficking.


The continued lack of a union law allows the exploitation of workers in all sectors. In the private sector, there are cases of non-paid overtime work, while in public service, workers have no way of claiming a pay rise to alleviate the impact of inflation. While the local economy is growing, there is also a growing gap in income, in particular between manufacturing industry and the gaming sector. Low pay tends to be concentrated in certain groups, such as those with a low level of education, insecure jobs, workers in small enterprises, youth, women and minorities. Although there are no signs of collective bargaining being introduced, the government has started a debate over introducing a minimum wage system. Cleaning, security and property management could become the first three industries chosen by the government in an initial implementation phase for the minimum wage.

Trade union rights in law

Problematic areas remain in the legal framework for trade unions despite the adoption of a new labour relations law in 2009. Freedom of association is guaranteed under local law, and the law prohibits the dismissal of workers on grounds of their membership of a union or their union activities. However, the new labour relations law fails to provide adequate protection for part-time workers and migrant workers whilst providing excessive flexibility to employers. The Guidelines on the Professional Ethics and Conduct of Public Servants also appear to require civil servants to seek prior permission from managers before joining a trade union. Furthermore, while Macau legislation provides that agreements concluded between employers and workers shall be valid, it does not explicitly state that such agreements should be concluded or that they should involve collective bargaining.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

China's influence over union activity: It is widely believed that the central government of the People's Republic of China has a strong influence over local trade union activities, including the direct selection of the leadership of the largest private sector union, the Federation of Trade Unions. Nearly all of the six main private sector unions belong to this pro-Beijing federation. This has undermined the independence of trade unions, since support for central government policies, such as the minimisation of workplace disruption, overrides the protection of the rights and interests of trade union members. There have been reports of intimidation of those who do speak out against the Beijing government both politically and in terms of labour rights. Civil society is weak, but there has been a growth of smaller and more vocal trade unions, alongside a growth in civil society associations.

Difficulties in registering organisations and trade unions: In practice, many labour groups and unions find it difficult to register as organisations, and informal worker groups are not permitted to exist. In many cases organisers are asked to submit the names of potential members before registration. However, due to fears of retribution and blacklisting, many supporters are unwilling to provide full details.

Rising wage arrears and lengthy procedures for remedy: With more foreign investment in the SAR, the increasing use of sub-contractors and the use of less-protected migrant workers, wage arrears has become a common problem, especially in the construction sector. The procedure to get wage arrears in front of the Labour Bureau is lengthy and cumbersome. According to the Civil Servants Union, a simple labour dispute could take one year to process by the Bureau followed by another two years in court. The majority of migrant workers cannot afford to wait this long, and many leave within this period.

Blacklisting unionists and denial of re-entry to Macau: The Macau SAR Government is believed to keep a blacklist of local workers who have supported local strikes and regularly denies entry to "trouble-makers".

Employment relationships one-sided: It is common practice in Macau for workers not to have formal contracts with their employers. The power of employers to unilaterally change the wages and working conditions of employees or to terminate employment is therefore unchecked. Given this employer power and with no legal-institutional framework for collective bargaining or for employment contracts, workers are easily victimised and discriminated against for their union activities. The use of temporary contracts has also been increasing, making workers even more vulnerable to abuse and intimidation. The use of subcontractors in the construction industry adds to the problem. In a case publicised in July 2011, 33 workers who claimed they were owed wages said they had been told that they were no longer employed by the contractor for whom they had been working (without an employment contract) but were instead employed by a sub-contractor, who had no money to pay them.

Migrant workers denied rights:

Migrant workers are denied basic forms of protection and have no right to collective bargaining and no effective legal recourse in the case of unfair dismissal. Most generally earn less than half the wage of local workers employed in the same job, and contracts are between labour recruitment agents and the employer, rather than directly between the employer and the employees. There is also little supervision of recruitment agencies, which often demand exorbitant fees from migrant workers.

The new law on the Employment of Foreign Employees from October 2009 remains discriminatory and is too vague. It imposes a levy on employers of non-resident workers. The bill gives a six month re-entry ban on workers who terminate their contracts and prohibits the transfer to other job categories. The government said in November 2011 that it is planning to include new exceptions to the six-month ban. It is considering relaxing the ban to allow non-resident workers to change jobs immediately provided they keep working in the same industry.


No entry for this country for this year

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