Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Private firms attack labor export reforms

National News - November 06, 2006
Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Private labor exporters are unhappy with a new government policy that requires the businesses to have a minimum capital of Rp 3 billion and pay a Rp 500 million deposit to the government.

The Indonesian Labor Exporters Association (Apjati) and the Indonesian Manpower Development Association (Idea) say the new ministerial decree is confusing and contains red tape that targets prospective migrant workers.

Apjati chairman Husein Alaydrus said that under the decree, only a few major companies would survive because they would still be able to run branch offices in the regions, training centers with qualified instructors and a wide network including foreign partners.

"It would require a company to have a lot of money to be as professional as the government requires," Alaydrus said in a recent meeting with Manpower and Transmigration Minister Erman Suparno.

He questioned the Rp 225 billion in bank deposits the government had collected from labor suppliers and asked why the minister chose to leave the money with state-owned Bank BNI, which offers an interest rate of only 6 percent, compared with the 9 percent on offer at other banks.

In the meeting with Erman, Idea chairman Adrie Nelwan raised the issue of the numerous illegal fees prospective migrant workers are faced with while organizing their departure documents.

"The bureaucratic procedures have been simplified, so that now prospective workers only have to go through 14 desks instead of the 43 desks of the past, but the red tape remains.

"A worker has to spend between two and three million rupiah to obtain documents from the bureaucracy, from the village level through to the immigration level. Workers are also required to undergo several document checks upon their arrival home," Adrie said.

Workers are also now able to apply for their passports from their home villages, allowing them to obtain the necessary papers within two weeks.

The government has reformed its labor export procedures in a effort to increase the number of migrant workers from the current 400,000 a year to 1.5 million.

Labor suppliers also demanded that the government reform corruption in the bureaucracy and encourage state-owned banks to provide soft loans to workers, as well as cooperating with all countries employing Indonesian workers.

They said the labor export law required six government regulations, two presidential regulations and nine ministerial decrees. Of these, only one presidential regulation and two ministerial decrees have been issued and no government regulations have been set to enforce the law.

Migrant Care and Jakak, two non-governmental organizations that provide advocacy for migrant workers, criticized the reform of the labor export program, saying it had been carried out halfheartedly by Erman in an attempt to please the President and retain his cabinet seat in the event of a reshuffle.

"The President has issued a regulation on establishment of an independent body for labor placement overseas and launched a cheap, rapid and secure labor placement program but the agency has yet to be set up while the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry is still playing its dominant role," said Wahyu.

Jarak executive director Achmad Marzuki said that despite the reform, the labor export program had been frequently abused by unauthorized labor exporters supplying children and women as sexual workers overseas.

"From our recent investigations in Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East, many children and women have been smuggled to be employed as commercial sex workers in entertainment centers and nightclubs. Many others were sent through the official procedure but then they were sold to pimps. This has happened in East Malaysia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia," he said.



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