UNAIR Communication Lecturer Responds to Migrant Worker Problems

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Illustration by Feri Fenoria

UNAIR NEWS – Indonesia’s labor problems cannot improve the welfare of the people, especially the problem of Indonesian Workers (TKI) which could not be deemed protected by the state.

A lecturer in Communication at Faculty of Social and Political Sciences (FISIP) of Universitas Airlangga (UNAIR), Irfan Wahyudi, S. Sos., M. Comms., PhD., conducted a study on the problems of migrant workers in Hong Kong. According to him, Indonesian migrant domestic workers (IMDWs) in Hong Kong face strict working conditions and are vulnerable to violations of human rights and exploitation.

Migrant workers who travel abroad have provided somewhat greater opportunities for freedom in their career path. But migrant workers have to face various problems concerning their rights as humans.

Irfan revealed that the Indonesian government from time to time could not seriously discuss the protection of migrant workers. The length of time for discussion of amendment of Law Number 39 Year 2004 which has been on the agenda of the DPR-RI Prolegnas since 2010 has in fact only been ratified into Law in 2017. In that period of time there are countless migrant workers who have fallen victims of a situation that human rights activists call slavery in the modern era.

“They were forced to work long shifts, paid below the standard, even tortured and physically and mentally abused,” he said.

In his study, Irfan quoted one book entitled Follow the Maid: Domestic Workers Migration in and from Indonesia. In the book there is a migrant worker named Olivia Killias who described the workers have experienced problems even from the beginning of recruitment process. Prospective migrant workers are promised an easy application process with training provided by recruitment agencies.

All training processes provided by recruitment agencies turn out to be a problem when migrant workers have to bear the training and placement costs deducted from their salaries when they eventually work. The cut is also quite large, worth three to four times their salary per month. Finally, they must work with very minimal salaries because most of them are transferred to the agency.

In his research, Irfan hoped that the Indonesian Government will seriously deal with the problem of migrant workers. Improvements in the Manpower Law concerning migrant workers must be fair to migrant workers. For example, by reducing the role of PJTKIs, training became the responsibility of the government, eliminating the cost of placement, and decentralizing of migrant workers’ protection.

Furthermore, the latest formation of Indonesian cabinet is a crucial point for President Joko Widodo’s seriousness in dealing with the issue of TKI protection. The government needs to choose a Minister of Manpower who understands and is in favor of the protection of TKI. (*)

Author: Aditya Novrian

Editor: Khefti Almawalia


Panizza Allmark & Irfan Wahyudi. 2019. Travel, sexuality and female Indonesian domestic migrant workers in Hong Kong.

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