The government moratorium on sending Indonesian domestic migrant workers to Malaysia has worsened the unemployment situation in the country, as alternative jobs have not been provided for the thousands of workers slated to leave for Malaysia, activists said on Sunday.
Speaking at a women’s rights seminar in Jakarta on Sunday, Thaufiek Zulbahary, head of the migration program division from the group Women’s Solidarity for Human Rights (Solidaritas Perempuan), said imposing the ban was a responsive move but not the best solution to tackle violence against Indonesian migrant workers.
“The government does not care about what happens to the workers [barred from leaving for Malaysia in 2009]. The workers were simply sent back to their villages without being given any alternative prospects for employment,” Thaufiek said.
“The reason those workers chose to look for jobs in Malaysia as domestic helpers in the first place was because they had no opportunities in other sectors in their home country,” she added.
The moratorium has been in place since 2009, when an increasing number of cases of abuse against Indonesian domestic workers sparked outrage in the country.
Malaysia and Indonesia are still in the process of discussing terms and conditions for the moratorium to be lifted.
According to the National Board for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Overseas Workers (BNP2TKI), approximately 36,000 workers were barred from leaving for Malaysia in June 2009 when the moratorium was implemented.
The House of Representatives was scheduled to revise the 2004 Law on the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Workers Abroad in 2010, but the bill is still pending.
Roostiawati, head of foreign cooperation at the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration’s directorate for overseas worker placement, said the government had no plans to revoke the moratorium in the near future.
“We will only revoke the moratorium on sending migrant workers to Malaysia once we have improved the system for protecting our workers,” she said.
“Ensuring the protection of our migrant workers will require cooperation from other departments and ministries.”
Roostiawati said that from January this year, her ministry would be working in partnership with labor-intensive sectors on plans to absorb the prospective migrant workers into domestic industries.
The ministry is currently researching the industry potential of 159 districts in West Java, Central Java and West Nusa Tenggara where many applicants for overseas work come from.
The ministry hopes to accommodate potential migrant workers in factories, agriculture, plantations and handicrafts so they will not need to look for work abroad