Thursday, September 21, 2006

Manpower ministry keeps workers, Korean firms waiting

World News - September 02, 2006

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

After visiting the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry numerous times, Karyono, 28, a resident of Pondok Kelapa in East Jakarta, has almost lost hope in his dream of working abroad.

"I have been through several stages, submitted many documents, and paid millions of rupiah and yet I still don't know if I will be able to work abroad or not," he told The Jakarta Post in front of the manpower ministry building in Jakarta on Friday.

Karyono said that the ministry was his last hope as previously he and several of his friends were cheated by an agency, which promised immediate employment either in Hong Kong, Taiwan or South Korea.

"Each of us paid Rp 15 million (around US$1,400) but after waiting for months, they kept on delaying our departure, and eventually we did not hear any more from the agency. Then we heard that to work abroad, we must contact the ministry. But it's been several months since we submitted the requirements to the officials and paid some money and it is still not clear when we can leave," Karyono said.

He said that he needed to get a job because he had to pay back the money he borrowed to pay the agency, as well as money to support his family.

Apparently, Karyono is only one of thousands of Indonesians who have to wait for months or even years to leave the country to work abroad due to the slow process at the manpower ministry.

The South Korean Embassy in Jakarta revealed that there are over 3,000 Indonesians, who have gained approval from the Korean government and employers to work there, but could not leave because their documents were still at the Indonesian manpower ministry.

"Many Korean companies, which need Indonesian workers immediately, complain about the slow response from Indonesia. Out of seven countries that have been sending workers to South Korea, the time taken to process documents to send migrant workers from Indonesia is the longest," a source at the South Korean Embassy said.

According to counselor of public affairs at the Korean Embassy Yoon Moon-han, the Korean government decided to stop accepting migrant workers from Indonesia in June 2005 due to document counterfeiting and an increasing number of illegal migrant workers. However it decided to resume accepting migrant workers from Indonesia in July 2006 within the framework of government-to-government cooperation.

"We only accept migrant workers through the manpower ministry, and refuse to deal with private agencies," he told a press briefing Thursday.

The agreement stipulates that the Indonesian Manpower and Transmigration Ministry should send a list of eligible workers, who have passed a Korean language proficiency test and medical checkup, to the South Korean Labor Ministry, and the latter will consult with the South Korean immigration office and Ministry of Justice to get the visas issued. After that, the South Korean Ministry of Labor sends the visa numbers to the Indonesian Manpower Ministry to forward to the workers.

But apparently, the process stalls at this stage.

"After the workers have finished dealing with the manpower ministry, they should come to us for the visa. We will charge only US$50 per person. In fact, we take a maximum of three days to issue a visa," Park Sang-hoon, the South Korean Embassy's immigration attache in Jakarta, said.

Aside from the long procedure, many agencies and individuals are still operating to deceive the workers.

Park said that some agencies had deceived the workers by making faking letters from the manpower ministry, using a fake contract of employment and making false visa letters in collaboration with Korean language schools.

"We get three reports a day on average from people who claim to have been cheated out of up to Rp 50 million," he said.

In spite of all the problems, South Korean companies are very eager to hire Indonesian workers. This is evident from a recent survey conducted by a South Korean body that found that Indonesian and Vietnamese workers are preferred over all other foreign workers working in South Korea because they are seen as hard-working and early risers. They are viewed as having a good character and as tending to stay out of trouble.

Currently, there are over 13,000 Indonesian workers in South Korea. This year alone, South Korea is planning to recruit 8,000 workers from Indonesia. A worker can earn up to Rp 15 million per month in South Korea.

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