Wage Hike May Keep Workers in Indonesia
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja – Straits Times
The number of Indonesians working abroad could decline in the coming years as minimum wages in various regions of the country rise, some labor activists and workers say.
The Jakarta administration last month decided to set the capital’s minimum wage at 2.2 million rupiah ($228) a month, starting next month.
This is an increase of about 45 percent from around 1.5 million rupiah currently.
City administrations in other regions around the capital city, such as Bekasi, Depok and Bogor, will also raise their minimum wages to 2 million rupiah a month and above, from the less than 1.5 million rupiah currently.
“This will affect the urge of the otherwise potential migrant workers to leave the country. But this is good,” said Anis Hidayah, executive director of Jakarta-based Migrant Care, which looks after workers’ welfare.
“We may see a decline of 10 percent to 20 percent next year,” she added.
Said Roni Febrianto, spokesman for the Federation of Indonesian Metal Workers: “If one can have a job with a decent pay here, why go abroad and be very far from families?
“The risks are huge while state protection is much less.”
The prospect of a decline in migrant workers from Indonesia comes as employers in Singapore are paying higher agency fees for maids even as the number of well-trained maids has dropped. Employers are spending up to $1,600 for a new Indonesian maid this year, up from between $400 and $600 previously.
Some maids from Indonesia prefer going to Taiwan or Hong Kong, where monthly salaries are generally more than 5 million rupiah, compared to 3.5 million rupiah in Singapore and the government-mandated 2.3 million rupiah in Malaysia.
There are 208,400 maids in Singapore, most of whom come from Indonesia and the Philippines.
Workers in Indonesia are lauding the planned first-ever fat pay rise, which will allow them to live decently with some money to save and spend on recreation.
Their new monthly pay, which they will receive from Jan. 1, will reach 3 million rupiah after including meal and transport allowances and the occasional overtime pay.
The higher wage will allow Agus Sunaryo, 27, a plastic packaging worker in West Jakarta, to apply for a mortgage loan and save as well.
“A third of the pay would be around 700,000 rupiah, which is the minimum monthly mortgage installment for the cheapest 40-million-rupiah house. I will be bankable next year,” Agus told The Straits Times.
Such a brighter picture in a factory worker’s life in Jakarta will be a great temptation to Indonesians working in neighboring countries, a Jakarta-based blogger wrote in a post on Kaskus.com, a popular Indonesian website.
“Living expenses are not as costly in Jakarta and it’s nearer to their kampung. They can more easily go home for breaks,” wrote the blogger, who identifies himself as Dibers.
Still, things might not be as simple as that, said Jumhur Hidayat, who heads the National Placement and Protection Agency for Indonesian migrant workers.
He said the substantial pay hike may lead companies to lay off many workers in order to reduce costs.
“There may be hundreds of thousands of workers losing their jobs and they would see going overseas for work as an option,” Jumhur told reporters in Batam recently.
Caswati, director of an Indonesian agency for migrant workers, said it would take a while to see the impact of Indonesia’s rising minimum wage on the flow of workers going out of the country.
She told The Straits Times: “Let’s see what happens in four to five months’ time.
“If companies are laying off workers, then we will have more people wanting to become migrant workers.”
Reprinted courtesy of The Straits Times