Out of Work and Out of Hope for Many Disabled Indonesians
Ulma Haryanto & Anita Rachman
While the government is required by law to ensure that all public and private institutions in the country fill 1 percent of their positions with disabled people, this is rarely enforced.
Under the 1997 Law on People with Disabilities, those that fail to live up to this hiring requirement can be fined as much as Rp 200 million ($21,000), or imprisoned for up to six months.
The 2003 Labor Law also requires companies to provide protection and job training for the disabled.
There were 2.1 million people with disabilities in the country in 2010, according to the Social Affairs Ministry. About 51,000 of them, it said, lived in Jakarta.
Almost half of the people living with disabilities in the country were unskilled, according to data from the ministry, with 921,000 unemployed.
Gufroni Sakaril, chairman of the Indonesian Disabled Association (PPCI), told the Jakarta Globe that many companies were unaware of existing hiring regulation, which was one reason for widespread non-compliance.
Another reason, he said, is the misplaced view that people with disabilities are unable to do a good job. “It is not that we have a lack of regulations, as the law even lists punishments for companies that failed to live up to their obligations,” Gufroni said. “It’s just that there is little enforcement.”
Chris Kanter, the deputy chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), said he was unaware of any regulation that required companies to hire people with disabilities.
“I don’t not know if there is such a regulation,” he said. “If there is, then clearly it is about time that it was communicated to the public.”
Kanter said most companies stopped at donating money to charities and foundations for disabled people, and were not actively involved in hiring or training them.
“I’ve almost never heard of anyone with a physical disability coming in and applying for a job at one of my companies,” he added. “I’ll bet that we could always find work for them. Not all jobs need a perfect physique. They can always do behind-the-desk work.”
But he said that companies should not be given all the blame for the high unemployment rate for people with disabilities. He said many might never have received the necessary education to hold many jobs, or could simply lack the confidence needed to apply for work.
“They might be the ones who think they are less capable than those without disabilities,” he said. “I think they are afraid to have to compete with them.”
Gufroni, from the PPCI, said some companies hired people with disabilities not necessarily because they were qualified, but as part of their corporate social responsibility programs. He said that was how he got a job in 2004 in the public relations department of television station Indosiar.
“They would hire one or two people a year, but it wasn’t done regularly,” he said. “Indosiar did it as its CSR.”
CSR or not, 34-year-old Mariana Messah, who is blind, is happy to be working at Indosiar. She shares a small “work room” with Tri Novianto, who lost his left leg because of a childhood illness, and the two work as telephone operators.
“I have worked here for 10 years,” Mariana said. “I heard that Indosiar had an opening for disabled people, I applied and was accepted and I haven’t looked for another job since.”
According to her colleagues, Mariana has worked there for so long that she can identify her co-workers by the sound of their footsteps or their smell.
Though blind, she can navigate her way around the building without having to use a cane.
Tri started at Indosiar in 1996. He has a degree in engineering but said it was difficult to find a job that suited his educational background. “That’s why I decided to stay here,” he said.
But he did make use of his engineering skills to design a special motorbike to get to work.
“My motorcycle has three wheels with custom-made pedals” he said. “The security guards here let me park it outside near my work space so that I don’t have to walk that far.”
Angkie Yudistia, the CEO and founder of Thisable Enterprise, has also found her stride and is raising awareness, through companies and social programs, of people with disabilities. Her foundation works with companies as business partners to tailor their corporate social programs to focus on people with disabilities.
“We can’t rely on the government alone,” she said. “Where they leave off is where we should continue. I’m just doing my part.”
Angkie lost her hearing when she was 10 years old because of an overconsumption of antibiotics. Even with a master’s degree in marketing communications, she faced discrimination in the workplace, which inspired her to strike out on her own and start Thisable.