Multicultural practice

Speaking during an event at the Macao Trade and Investment Fair (MIF) last week, Frederick Ma Chi Ngai, Permanent President of the Macao Youth Association and Vice President of China Youth Entrepreneurs Association, said that “multiculturalism” is in Macau’s DNA.
Multiculturalism is a big word, which actually entails a policy-oriented framework, designed to integrate immigrants within a given society.
While we can claim Macau is multicultural by social practice, historically and presently, it is different to claim it is by political design.
Recent political episodes, such as the ones linked to public transportation proposals to separate resident from non-resident users, suggest policy is not drawing on multicultural values. Rather, the contrary.
A more compelling case is the blue card system, which is built in a way so as to exclude immigrants from the social security system, for instance, based on the fact that they don’t have the ‘right’ passport.
Accordingly, several jobs and positions are reserved for Macau residents in the government and academic institutions. On the other hand, the private sector is leading a silent battle against the bureaucratic hurdles to recruit foreign labour, which affects big corporations and SMEs alike.
Some of the operating criteria for excluding foreigners from rights of residency are tacit, belonging to unaccountable decision-making, which leaves room for discretionary decisions.
Rules of the game, so to speak.
But that wouldn’t have to be an issue if the trade-off allowed for integration to happen in other domains of life. For integration is not only a matter of papers. It overlaps with cultural and social policies as well as the very experience of the city.
It ranges from creating language policies and juridical and medical assistance, to job placement and employment information, designed to accommodate immigrants to the needs of society and vice-versa, so that all can live in a ‘harmonious’ society, lest we miss the focal point here: locals and foreigners are human beings.
Multiculturalism is not a formula for flawless coexistence, but it is the best option at hand if we consider that cultural diversity in a city like Macau is historically binding and currently unavoidable.
In popular parlance, if you cannot beat them, join them – if only for the sake of peaceful cohabitation.