Friday, January 26, 2007

Jumhur aims to help, protect RI workers

National News - January 23, 2007
Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The chief of a newly established agency to place and protect Indonesian workers abroad promised Monday to institute rapid changes.

Jumhur Hidayat was sworn in by Manpower and Transmigration Minister Erman Suparno as chief of the newly-established National Agency for the Placement and Protection of Overseas Workers.

The agency takes over the ministry's responsibilities to migrant workers, such as facilitating labor export and providing legal protection.

"My immediate task is to hire professionals and qualified staff to make the new agency operational. My focus is on facilitating a cheap, rapid and safe labor export procedure in accordance with the law and improving our workers' bargaining position in the world market," he said after the ceremony.

The 2004 Overseas Labor Placement and Protection Law requires the presence of an independent agency to deal with labor export and protection. The law also requires the government and the new agency to supply workers only to countries that have labor agreements with Indonesia.

About four million Indonesians work overseas, mostly in Middle East countries. Most of these countries do not have bilateral labor agreements with Indonesia, which has contributed to the rampant abuse of migrant workers.

Saudi Arabia employs the most Indonesians in Middle East but workers employed as housemaids, drivers and gardeners are not protected by its labor laws or by any agreement between the two countries. According to data from Migrant Care, hundreds of Indonesian workers have been killed, jailed, raped, abused, unpaid and exploited over the last two decades due to the absence of a legal protection.

So far, Indonesia has signed labor agreements with Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Kuwait.

There are also millions of Indonesian workers, including child laborers, being employed without documentation in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. There are also tens of thousands working in many countries which are not recommended by the government, such as Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Palestine and Iraq.

Jumhur said the new agency would be tough in enforcing the law and require all labor exporters to have their own training center in order to shift the country's labor export policy into semi-skilled workers and reduce the number of unskilled workers.

"Indonesia will not only accelerate labor exports but also intensify the labor training program to improve the quality of workers," he said.

"We are targeting exports of about 750,000 workers this year with some 70 percent being semi-skilled workers. We must reduce the supply of housemaids, baby sitters, drivers and gardeners," Jumhur said.

Indonesia exported 600,000 labors last year.

Erman told Jumhur to give priority to labor protection and eradicate red tape and extortions so that workers could depart, work overseas and return home safely.

"The government has simplified the labor export procedures and promoted labor training to encourage trained job seekers to work overseas. This will not only help ease the unemployment problem at home but also encourage our workers to go global," he said.



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