Tongue-tied expats breath easier after test plan delayed
Rendi Akhmad Witular, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Expats working here will not be required to take a controversial Indonesian-language test for the first six months after the official entry into effect of the new policy due to fears that mandatory testing might place an unnecessary additional burden on business.
After the six-month period is up, an evaluation will be conducted to determine whether the tests should be made mandatory for non-nationals wishing to obtain or extend work permits, Manpower and Transmigration Minister Erman Suparno told The Jakarta Post recently.
"The ministry is scheduled to officially introduce the policy in June. However, we will delay making it mandatory for non-nationals for a period of six months after the policy's introduction. It will be more or less like a trial period," said Erman.
He said that should the requirement be found to be disruptive for businesses, the ministry would revoke it and seek other alternatives.
The introduction of a language proficiency test was first mooted by former manpower and transmigration minister Fahmi Idris, who is now the industry minister, in the middle of last year.
The requirement appears to be a disguised barrier designed to prevent an influx of foreign workers into the country as Indonesia gradually liberalizes its labor market in line with various international agreements.
The country will start opening its doors to job seekers from the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year, and in 2008 for those from outside ASEAN, as required by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The language proficiency test will be carried out by the newly established National Commission for Vocational Standardization (BNSP), which comes under the auspices of the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry.
The commission is tasked with issuing qualification certificates to both domestic and foreign managerial and professional workers, as well as for medium- and low-skilled workers.
"The ministry will definitely not charge a fee for the test. It will all be free. I sincerely hope that the test will not create an unnecessary burden for the business community during the trial period," said Erman.
The ministry estimates the number of non-nationals working or studying in Indonesia at around 28,000, a figure that is expected to rise after the implementation of the international agreements on labor liberalization.